New Zealand's bees and beekeepers are calling on Kiwis to 'Bee a Hero' this September, as the country celebrates Bee Aware Month, and a local club is encouraging Rotorua to get involved.
Bee Aware Month is an annual educational campaign organised by Apiculture New Zealand and supported by bee lovers across New Zealand.
Apiculture New Zealand chief executive Karin Kos says there are two key goals of the campaign.
"We want to lift awareness of the critical importance of bees to New Zealand's environment, food chain and economy, and teach Kiwis some simple actions that everyone can take to improve bee health."
Rotorua Honey Bee Club president Kim Poynter says although we don't have a shortage of bees in NZ it is important we are aware of the role they have in our food availability, and how we can avoid causing them harm with our gardening practices.
She says the club's aim is to promote local support, knowledge and education for responsible beekeeping practice.
Therefore, it puts a lot of effort into education, both on a monthly basis at club meetings and with an annual course which is coming up in September.
The club is running a free community talk called Is Beekeeping for me?. This is a one hour presentation for those interested but not sure what beekeeping really involves.
It will cover the pros and cons, the fun and the challenges. This will be held at the club apiary at 10.30am on Sunday, September 6. The club apiary is at the end of Kingsley Drive, Ngongotaha.
The club is also running a course called the Essentials of Beekeeping later in the month.
This is a three-part course with part one on September 20, part two on September 27 followed by a practical session when attendees have their beekeeping suits.
She says this is ideally suited to those just starting out with bees, planning to start beekeeping or who have had a hive for a year or so and want to learn more.
This course costs $80 to attend. Registrations are essential and can be completed by going to the www.rotoruahoneybeeclub.co.nz. A list of topics is also available.
"We strongly recommend that new beekeepers attend to give them the best chance at being successful in this wonderful hobby."
Kim says beekeeping is her passion.
"It is a very special feeling being in a hive and watching the workings of the amazing creatures that bees are. Honey is a bonus. I find beekeeping to be a mentally stimulating hobby.
"As a club, we aim to be very inclusive and supportive with a focus on education to enable people to be good beekeepers.
"A hive has 40-60,000 bees in it and they are livestock that need caring for. Bees die out in NZ if they are not cared for."
Karin Kos says green-fingered Kiwis can help bees by growing bee-friendly plants in their gardens, while non-gardeners can also do their bit.
"Mowing your lawns less often is one really simple thing that can make a difference for bees. Weeds like clover and dandelions are great food for bees."
Karin also encourages Kiwis to support everyday bee heroes - beekeepers.
"Since the advent of varroa, beekeepers' have become essential to the survival of honey bees. Our beekeepers work hard to care for and protect our bees.
"Buying local honey, especially some of our beautiful native varieties like rewarewa or kāmahi, or other bee products is a great way to back our beekeepers and their bees," she says.
Another important thing everyone can do is to take care with garden sprays.
Karin recommends either avoiding garden sprays, selecting bee-friendly products or following the spray safe rules.
"Spray only in the early morning and evening when bees are less active, never spray when flowers are in bloom and always read instructions carefully before spraying."
The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) is a key supporter of Bee Aware Month.
Throughout Bee Aware Month, Apiculture New Zealand and its supporters and sponsors will be sharing bee facts, running competitions and, where possible, organising community events.
- New Zealanders can find out more by visiting www.beeawarenz.co.nz and following the Bee Aware Month Facebook and Instagram pages.
- Rotorua Honey Bee Club members receive a comprehensive bi-monthly newsletter with relevant information to assist guide carers of bees to what should be done in the hive, when and why.
The club members also have access to a list of equipment including honey extractors to borrow. Bulk buying of hive treatment keeps the price down for everyone.