In a year when a global pandemic, national lockdown, restrictions on gatherings and economic upheaval have wreaked havoc on the events industry in New Zealand, apiculture appears to have weathered the storm. A variety of conferences, field days, open days and symposiums catering to beekeepers have taken place, or are scheduled to, in July and August. Despite its title, the largest of the events is expected to be the New Zealand Beekeeping Inc. (NZBI) Mini-Conference, held Friday August 21 – Saturday 22 at the Wairakei Resort in Taupo. Patrick Dawkins of Apiarist's Advocate reports.

The cancellation of Apiculture New Zealand's annual conference, which was to be held in Rotorua in June and expected to draw about 1000 attendees before being scuttled by Covid-19 and lockdown concerns, left a void in the beekeeping calendar.

Fellow beekeeping industry body NZBI and the Mini-Conference will help fill that gap, with the event expected to draw about 300 delegates.

The two-day conference will feature a range of seminars, discussions, in-hive demonstrations, a trade show and social evening.

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The overall schedule of events is titled "Looking to the Future: Economics, Biosecurity, Science", which reflects the range of experts speaking to an array of topics relevant to beekeepers.

NZBI president Jane Lorimer said she really enjoyed organising and hosting events such as the Mini-Conference, with the beekeeping body holding seminars or mini-conferences every year.

Covid-19 provided added difficulty this year, with the organising committee having only two months from the time the decision to hold an event was made, until August 21-22. Despite that, Lorimer was very happy with progress.

NZBI president Jane Lorimer welcomes beekeepers to the Mini-Conference in Taupō. Photo / Supplied
NZBI president Jane Lorimer welcomes beekeepers to the Mini-Conference in Taupō. Photo / Supplied

"I am really happy with the variety of things we have got on the programme."

"You always are unsure if you have enough on the agenda to encourage people to come along, but we have got it so on Saturday we will hopefully entice a lot of hobby beekeepers along. We are able to have hives on site, so we will do some practical demonstrations over our two-hour lunch break," Lorimer said.

The list of speakers includes Dr Terry Braggins on adulterated honey, Ian Fletcher over two sessions on gaining value for honey and then biosecurity, Grant Jackson from Miraka Dairy Company on "Thinking Outside the Bee Box", ANZ Bank chief-economist Sharon Zollner, Victor Goldsmith on protecting the term "mānuka honey" and Dr Mark Goodwin on the Honey Characterisation Project, among others.

Lorimer believed it was not just the seminars where beekeepers would be able to gain knowledge.

"We have a couple of sessions where we will be getting audience participation. For us you learn as much by leaning on a bar, or talking at mealtime with another beekeeper, than you do sitting through a seminar."

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For that reason, there will be a three-course roast dinner held on Friday night at the resort, and plenty of open floor discussion at each presentation, Lorimer said.

"I enjoy talking with the researchers, finding out what they are doing and providing their information to beekeepers to learn something."

Wairakei Resort, Taupō, where the NZBI Mini-Conference will be held August 21-22. Photo / Supplied
Wairakei Resort, Taupō, where the NZBI Mini-Conference will be held August 21-22. Photo / Supplied

A trade show will also take place at the conference, with around 20 exhibitors of beekeeping products expected.

Early-bird registration (prior to August 7) is $80 for NZBI members or $110 for non-members, per-person per day, with the schedule of events running from 9am to 5pm both days.

For Lorimer and her organising team, pulling together the Mini-Conference in a couple of months has required a lot of fast work, but they were hoping a wide range of beekeepers would benefit from the occasion.

"I really enjoy putting these sorts of events on. I am hoping everyone, irrespective of what beekeeping organisation they belong to, or if they don't belong to any, can come along and enjoy the fellowship."

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• This article was first published in Apiarist's Advocate beekeeping eMagazine, subscribe for free at www.apiaristsadvocate.com.