Buzz Weekend - August 1998

Southern North Island Buzz Weekend a Tremendous Success!

Congratulations to PJ and his team, it was a great weekend at Camp Rangi Woods in the Pohangina Valley in August. There was plenty of information exchanged, but as is usual in such events, the highlight was the getting together of people with a similar interest to "chew the wax". The fact that everyone there learnt something new was the honey on the cake!

I have to admit that Frank's video to kick things off on Friday evening probably had a few of those new to beekeeping a bit worried. It was a classic American documentary on the spread of the African honey bee through the Americas, including reenactments of some of the attacks. Some victims were stung 8000 times (about 40 stings per square inch!).

The original importer of the bees (a bee breeder) was interviewed and the monitoring of the spread was followed. The main reason that all attempts to control it through breeding are unsuccessful is because the Africanised queens emerge a day early, kill all other queens and so retain their dominance. The positive spin put on it all was that Brazil is now a major honey producer, at the mere cost of about 600 lives!

Saturday morning consisted of workshops on:

  • Bee biology (Cliff van Eaton had some great new slides of bees etc, which really did impress the old-timers),

  • The parts of a hive (thanks to Robin McCammon who covered for a sick Merv Farrington admirably. I'm going to 10-frame brood boxes, now)

  • PJ on hive tools, framing up, using a smoker

  • Frank Lindsay on acquiring bees - collecting swarms, the legal side of buying hives, registration requirements. PJ reckons that sometimes fire brigades will help out with recovering high-up swarms. Don�t expect them to hang around, though!

  • John Brandon describing the importance of the spring build-up, including the need for a young queen, plenty of space in the hive and plenty of stores. He made a useful plug for some of the literature available through the NBA library and the International Bee Research Association

After lunch (a BIG thank you to Mary Ann Lindsay and all who helped her in the kitchen) was the hands-on bit, taking advantage of the break in the weather. Robin McCammon provided about a dozen hives for inspection (were they really that docile, or was there some Pohangina weed in those smokers?). Several new beekeepers got to see what to do with the inside of a hive for the first time.

Back inside the hall, James Driscoll led a discussion on disease identification and control and the introduction of the NBA's Pest Management Strategy.   James is confident that the goal of zero AFB is achievable. The video on the European Foulbrood scare in Nelson was fascinating.  The speed with which the network of people came together is encouraging for our industry, but the event highlights how vigilant we must be.

Now, the events of Saturday night are a little hazy in my mind, so I can only hope I get it right. Should I blame Frank's mead, James Scott's scotch whisky, or my own lack of self-control? Regardless, what memories I do have of the evening are positive. Before the "official" function, I was fascinated with James Driscoll's tales of his 6 week visit to the Pitcairn Islands.  About 38 people live there and there are only 4 surnames; virtually all residents are descended from the mutineers on the Bounty or their Tahitian partners!  I understand that they have 30+ hives on the island. James's eyes seemed to go all misty whenever he talked about his time there. He actually arrived in New Zealand from Pitcairn via a range of Pacific Islands on the previous Friday night!

Later came the inter-team competitions, including putting together and shifting a hive, making words from "Christopher Robin", chasing nuts around the floor (!!), and honey tasting.  The hat competition was won by Glen Robertson for his magnificent corrugated smoker. An anonymous Marton beekeeper won the wooden spoon for forgetting his hat!  The Bees Knees Trophy went to Taranaki for the most accumulated points.  All in all a grand effort by the evening's organisers, Sonya and Byron Blewitt, John Brandon and Lottie Ferris. .

Sunday. Oh, is it really 6.30am? Again, events are a bit of a blur, but apparently PJ supered up, Frank took his honey off and Robin processed it. I do recall Harry Brown's droll suggestion that if you are going to use pantyhose to sieve honey, it pays to take them off first.  Real funny, Harry.  Alan Richards described processing and handling beeswax.  Frank scared us with the licensing and labelling requirements and costs associated with packing and selling honey.

Sue Walker from Honeylands extolled the virtues of by-products from beekeeping, including pollen, propolis, royal jelly, bee venom, larvae for human consumption, apitherapy.  She discussed the polarisation between the claims made by some bee product suppliers and the medical profession.  Much of the research into bee products has been undertaken in the East and so is not widely accepted by the West.

At last came the camp clean-up; like the whole weekend, a combined affair, then PJ and James presented the Certificates of Attendance to all.

About 90 people registered for the weekend and I gather about another 40 were turned away. Registrants came from as far away as Auckland, Coromandel, Tauranga and Rotorua and one from Blenheim!  I can thoroughly recommend the next Buzz Weekend to any beekeeper.  I hope that the NBA considers putting this event on its own calender and giving it the support it deserves.

Bruce Bycroft, Levin


Camp Rangi

The Buzz Weekend at camp Rangi on the 14th to 16th August was a great success for the about 90 participants (with approx 50 living in). The organising committee had done a wonderful job in preparing a programme which covered just about everything in basic beekeeping and had arranged for this to be presented by a wide range of experienced and practical beekeepers. The result was an opportunity to learn from local beekeepers and to understand more about all aspects of beekeeping. The weather was great too - it didn't get too cold, and even stopped raining on Saturday afternoon long enough for all groups to get to look through a number of hives which had been brought into the adjacent camping field.

The first session on Saturday was on the "Biology of the Bee", presented by Robin McCammon who made what sounds like a really dull topic into an interesting and absorbing 45 minutes. This quality of information presentation continued through the later sessions, with lots of overhead slides and items of equipment used to provide detailed examples and illustrations of the material. The speakers were all willing to answer questions, and succeeded in the most part in handling all questions thrown at them (except those from Harry Brown).

In addition to the lecture and practical sessions, the camp was extremely well managed by Mary-Ann Lindsay and her numerous helpers. Everyone was expected to assist with the meals and washing up etc, but some people did more than the minimum required so ensuring that the weekend passed without problem. The meals were ample and were well prepared, though not everyone made it to breakfast on Sunday (rumours about too much whisky in some instances).

If you missed this one, make sure you register early next time (August 2000). Don't miss two in a row!

James Scott, Lower Hutt