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The growth of unskilled commercial operators

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Pretty much every commercial beekeeper out there must be aware of the influx of hives and new commercial/semi commercial operators coming in to the industry. As a queen breeder I have a lot of contact with these new operators and have become increasingly concerned with their lack of beekeeping knowledge, the amount of money they are sinking into their enterprises and their lack of interest in the actual bees.

 

It seems clear to me, and other established beekeepers that I speak to, that we are in the 'boom' cycle of the industry and that just like kiwifruit, deer, dairying etc the boom will be followed by the 'bust'. Clearly the industry growth has come from manuka, and as you only get manuka in NZ we have more control over the product than other primary producers...until another country finds a plant with marketable properties and starts cutting in to our market that is....or we have a fonterra style health/product scare.

 

Despite this every year brings more people in to the industry. Rather than working alongside commercial beekeepers and building numbers and expertise slowly many people are rushing in, going from no hives to 300 -400+ or from 1 or 2 hives as a hobbiest building numbers with an aim of 2000+ hives (both situations I have heard plenty of times). They hire beekeepers (of varying abilities), buy trucks with lifters and utes, charge around the country grabbing up sites. Or they work the hives themselves and employ 'consultants' who are in fact often failed commercial beekeepers or hobbiests who had or have small numbers of hives and no idea of running commercial operations. They try to run the bees like machines, pushing and pushing them without any love for the work or the creature and then wonder why the crops aren't there and the hives fall over.

 

So you end up with hives getting dumped over the top of others, poorly managed hives and disease spread....its the price we pay, and there is no solution to it. If/when the price collapses will we see abandoned hives (pretty much every beekeepers nightmare)? Will we see more theft of hives or supers as people try to boost income without the work?

 

I benefit from the boom, make no mistake....I sell queens, nucs and hives so demand is good and prices are good but would I be throwing my money into the industry right at the moment I'm not so sure. As so many fonterra suppliers/farmers are learning sometimes a bit of self control in a crazy boom time pays off when the bust comes and it seems like in NZ's history the bust always comes.

 

Ha, well thats how I see it anyway :-)

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I agree with you. Plenty of ambitious start ups with huge ideas with not too much care/interest in bees. The dollar speaks, unfortunately our current accepted policy is capitalism. We have been fortunate that honey crops and returns have been pretty good over the last 5 years, I remember years with poor crops and low prices. I think it's easy to buy bees and gear, set up fast and get a return - the hard part is keeping things going and having the skills to adapt.

 

You and many other beekeepers have benefited from the demand but are concerned about what could happen. Is it sustainable?

 

We have to remember that it's not only low skilled start ups doing the expansions/pushing, the big players have big plans.

 

Maybe this year, with poor cropping might stem the tide? Saying that, if you have managed to produce a marginal crop of "manuka" (really lets call it darker honey with good UMF - forget taste) you are still going to be paid far too much. There is some rubbish honey out there.

 

Also, our beekeeper education is pretty average.

 

My negative 2 cents worth. There are some very good operators who do care about their staff (bees and people). It's not all dire....

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over the last few years we are seeing more and more of semi's and small outfits that appear to be failing.

it seams to be a common general trend these days. even in good seasons they are not getting the crops that they should be.

as your only as good as the beek down the road is, its a concern to all the neighboring beeks (hobbyists included).

 

the other thing is the good beeks leaving firms to start up on their own. beeks getting sick and tired of the outfits antics, and seeing them take all the profit from their hard work. as demand for good beeks goes up, they need to look at incentives to keep their staff.

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Don't worry it is the same in the rest of the world.

At my place number of beeks is increasing but overall quality of beekeeping is falling down to unbelievable levels. And we have Aethina tumida knocking at our doors in a few seasons ahead. It would be as first wave of varroa here..

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Yes, well my theory on the large commercials is that they need a certain number of beekeepers to keep on top of the hives, some of them are good and some of them aren't. As the internal politics grind the good ones down and others decide to strike out on their own you end up with progressively worse beekeepers at the top...either those who aren't good, those who don't care enough or those that blindly follow their instructions from above regardless. Below these workers you have staff that are learning, but being taught by the beekeepers above them and therefore can't necessarily be blamed for any holes in their knowledge or poor practices built in to the business.

 

There are definitely some outfits that run good staff and look after them well but in general, with the high staff turnover standards are up and down and therefore hive quality is too, scary if you have hives in the vicinity I would think....bloody hard and time consuming to have good worker and hive oversight in a large company with many spread out hives and when the measurement of success is return to shareholders where does the focus go?

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Theres a rumour doing the rounds at present that theres been a major AFB outbreak at a locality in the South Island.

 

With ever increasing honey producers who arent beekeepers this will only get worse.

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Yes major outbreak south kaikoura 2000 hives maybe affected now these hives moved back to oxford Leeston blenheim

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Yes major outbreak south kaikoura 2000 hives maybe affected now these hives moved back to oxford Leeston blenheim

 

New beekeeper or experienced?

 

So many people from Canterbury pushing up into Kaikoura and even further North, more than a few with no beekeeping morals to speak of :(

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It is a sad fact, however what will happen will happen.....

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So many people from Canterbury pushing up into Kaikoura and even further North, more than a few with no beekeeping morals to speak of :(

Sorry Frazz, your manuka is just too tempting ;)

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New beekeeper or experienced?

 

If its the same person who abandoned their weak hives around Christchurch, when they moved up to Kaikoura, then they would be classed as "experienced".

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If its the same person who abandoned their weak hives around Christchurch, when they moved up to Kaikoura, then they would be classed as "experienced".

Really needs a dislike button.....

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Every year it gets harder to keep bees healthy.

Every year there are more hives .

Varroa has put our bees out of ballance and the high price of honey is just making it worse.Pollination, once a vital part of beekeeping in many areas is now a loss making sideline being done by fewer and fewer and those who stick with it are being squezed out of the business by new opperators who could care less.

Pollenation is the most important thing bees do and what is happening now should scare anyone who depends on it from clover to apples .

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Pollination is now the least profitable part of our business.

 

To the point where its probably costing us money.

 

Which is exactly what you have already said so I should have just clicked the agree button :)

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Yet the growers are moaning about the cost of pollination... Or Maby it's just the net they don't like...

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Yet the growers are moaning about the cost of pollination... ..

 

The growers have ALWAYS moaned about the cost.

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I think the problems the old school commercial beekeepers turning blind eyes, not passing down knowledge ,not helping hobbiests out, not supporting interested people ,claiming large patches of countryside and so forth they seem to be the only ones groveling

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I am one of the new wave of beekeepers I have only been at this for two years now, but I do agree that there will be a crash the same as in the dairy industry, the signs are already there in hives being stolen and the cost of nuc's and hives sky rocketing. As some one who lives down South what concerns me in this thread is the AFB, and if it is an experienced beekeeper or not leaving infected hives must come in for penalties? and yes there is a very large element of not sharing knowlege with some sections of the industry

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Yes major outbreak south kaikoura 2000 hives maybe affected now these hives moved back to oxford Leeston blenheim
Are these all owned by one company, or several, also, are they bees that get shipped to North Island and back?

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I have been told guy has 100 hives at least 85 % have afb

And 2000 with 3 km from 5 or 6 different beekeeping outfits. All the hives have been more out before the afb was found . The beekeeper concern has had it for number years by the looks of it and blamed varroa. What makes this worse he is a AP2 HE CHECKS BEEHIVE for afb and gets paid what a total screw up

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You work alongside someone or for someone in a commercial capacity you'll gain the knowledge you need....I hope I'm not being expected to pass on my 14 years of Beekeeping and queen breeding knowledge to just anyone to 'help them out' so they can set up in competition and/or dump hives over the top of me....my knowledge base comes from years of hard work, lots of thinking/worrying/planing, and many mistakes (some of them costly)...I won't be giving that away. If newbies can just get their afb practices right then I'd be a happy man.

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Here when I started my beekeeping I found mentor, at same time started school/course for beekeeper. Mentor was few times at my apiary, but I was at his a lot. Days and days of talk and practical learning, he shared all what he knows and I asked. During the process we become great friends and still we share experiences, ideas advices and support.

Knowledge itself worth nothing if You don't know to understand and apply. Not rarelly I answered to some new beeks questions they asked, they just say: yes, yes, yes.. I get the feeling they didn't hear a thing I told..

I would be glad all around are successfull as or more than me. It would be less diseases, less robbing, higher overall quality of stock we have.. I am not affraid of competition as long is played fair.

I hope that good will return with good. Even I know human nature, again we should not follow to be mean as other continue.

Now I talked too much.. If this post is misfit, please delete.

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I have been told guy has 100 hives at least 85 % have afb
Wow scary stuff. My own opinion if 85% of the 100 hives have symptomatic afb, everything should be burned, on the basis that the other 15 hives will probably come down with it at some point and it is better (and cheaper) long term to just nip the whole thing in the bud now.

 

Next question is his equipment, from honey boxes to whatever else, again in my opinion it is better to take a big hit now.

 

I'll bet the other beekeepers near him are not very happy chappies, however the current craziness that's going on in some places is begging for these type incidents to happen.

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Wow scary stuff. My own opinion if 85% of the 100 hives have symptomatic afb, everything should be burned, on the basis that the other 15 hives will probably come down with it at some point and it is better (and cheaper) long term to just nip the whole thing in the bud now.

 

Next question is his equipment, from honey boxes to whatever else, again in my opinion it is better to take a big hit now.

 

I'll bet the other beekeepers near him are not very happy chappies, however the current craziness that's going on in some places is begging for these type incidents to happen.

More importantly what of the 2000 odd neighboring hives that have since been moved out of the area? Quarantine?

 

Is this the folly of migratory beekeeping? Sweep the country picking up and spreading all manner of disease along the way? Maybe there should be a limit to how far bees may be moved within a season? An unworkable idea I'll admit but how else could you localise these types of outbreak?

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