Our October meeting was joined by the BOP Branch of the New Zealand Tree Crops Association (NZTCA) which is a voluntary organisation promoting interest in 'useful' trees. The Association had its beginnings in 1974 and, in its own words, thought that; "If farmers could be persuaded to establish a gentle landscape of shelter and windbreaks, woodlots, orchards, fodder crops and mixed associations of all kinds of trees and useful plants, then those farmers would benefit from enhanced pasture production through the combined effect of leaf litter, shelter and nitrogen provided by the judicious use of nitrogen-fixing tree species. As well, the combined effects of soil and water conservation, increased bird and bee population, and the revitalizing of our much-polluted atmosphere would vitally enrich the land. Other benefits would be an increase in the quality and diversity of fruits, nuts and timbers and their many useful by-products — in sum, an enrichment of all our lives by pursuing our tree crops goals."
It's a vision that beekeepers must have some sympathy with, and I know that the organisation we are more familiar with as far as bee forage goes, 'Trees For Bees' ("smart planting for healthy bees"), have involved Treecrops in some of their work. The organisation now has a wide range of members, farmers and life-stylers, scientists and gardeners. Like us, the Association holds monthly gatherings, and recent topics have included planting tips, growing hazel nut trees, rongoa Maori with Rob McGowan, and a guided visit to McLaren Falls Park. I'm not sure either of us were quite sure what to expect on this occasion.
I didn't think the weather was on our side, I left home in misty 40 - 50m visibility and continuous light rain, but by the time I got to Katikati an hour away it had dried out a bit, but it was still a surprise to find over hundred people gathering in and around a double garage listening to the host introduce the day, and me! The anticipated topic was 'Pollination' so I talked about the season, the main tree crops for the Bay, some of the difficulty there is in achieving, and knowing we have achieved, cross-pollination. My own interests in pollination encompass more than just honey bees, so the scope of the discussion included other bees and pollinators, how we can tell what is going on in terms of behaviours, and some of the sheer complexity involved, from nectar variability to bee attractants, to spays and chemicals.
Interestingly beekeepers responding to the "what if I wanted to keep bees" question were on the whole quite guarded and cautious rather than encouraging! How times change. Nevertheless Seaside Bees were on hand with an empty hive to demonstrate, and that prompted an another slew of questions.
The weather had given us an opportunity to go an open up some of the hosts hives for the visitors to see. I've really no idea what they saw as I was kept busy responding and advising the Treecropers that hadn't managed to speak earlier. There were a lot of bees flying around the garden, but no reports of any trouble over tea!
Membership of the NZTCA costs just $50 a year, including the quarterly magazine, and promotes a range of interests closely aligned with many beekeeper's passions. I rather hope we can meet up again sometime.