An interview with Avoca beekeeper Chris Reti in Northland, New Zealand
We sat down with our beekeeper Chris recently and asked him about his work and his passion about beekeeping and his birthplace Northland. Also check out our videos with Chris in action here:
- Could you tell us more about yourself and Northland? such as yourself, family, hobbies & passion?
Chris: I'm just your average kiwi, but with a taste for learning on a multitude of topics ,especially things that will challenge my thought process. Northland is a great place I've lived here my entire life. It can cater for many experiences outdoor which is what I enjoy doing with my family: we are keen bikers, like all water sports, water activities and getting together with nature. My hobbies range around creating and fixing something no matter what it is, I love the challenge of trying to fix something.
- What is a typical day like for you as a beekeeper? Does it change seasonally?
Chris: Depending on the season, in winter and autumn it usually will be continuously keeping up the health checks and colony size, supplement feeding and especially the activity of the Queen bee, she is paramount to our hive.
In spring and summer, we have some of the same activities but you have added issues like trying to avoid swarms occurring, giving your bees a lot of expanding space as the colonies expand in numbers quite rapidly, and honey production.
- What type of bees do you keep? What is so special about them?
Chris: Bee type is apis mallefera, common species in New Zealand and a honey and pollination producing bee.
- What is the toughest part of becoming a beekeeper?
Chris: I don't think it’s hard to become a beekeeper but I will say it requires a lot of your time and efforts year round.
- How many times have you been stung?
Chris: In spring and summer I get stung the most but it’s mostly because the bees are hot and agitated. It is usually because they are on the defence protecting themselves from other robbing bees. Some days I don't get stung at all.
- Do you have a favourite beekeeping story?
Chris: One of my favourite stories to remember is when I was driving to one of my other apiaries and I came around the corner to find a huge bunch of swarming bees getting ready to land. They were covering the road infrastructure of me and they were doing the tornado effect, (that’s what I like to call it) where they were going around in a circle in one spot. That’s a sign they were going to land soon, so I pulled over and waited then when they balled on a branch or twigged I pulled out my bucket and went to retrieve them: FREE COLONIE.
- Most people do not react well to the sight of swarming bees, were you afraid of the bees when you first started out as a beekeeper? If yes, how did you overcome that fear?
Chris: I get excited when I see swarms of bees and I catch everyone I find, I wouldn't say I was afraid of bees when I started because you just have to understand something to not be afraid of it. But I think anyone who's afraid of something just needs to address it head on, find the understanding and accept it.
- We always use the phrase "as busy as the bee", just wondering, do bees sleep or rest at all?
Chris: Yes, bees do sleep during the day and night mainly at night time when they aren't able to forage.
- Do bees recognize their hive? Can bees recognize their owner, the beekeeper (you)?
Chris: Bees do recognize their hives by memory and orientation flights ,I can't say if they recognize their owner but they recognize more of the person, they do like a puff of smoke or a spray of water mist to calm them down!!
- What is the most rewarding thing about beekeeping?
Chris: Beekeeping requires a lot of attention ,time and effort, so when I see a strong hive and a lot of honey on top of that it means you have done a great job keeping them strong.
- What advice would you give to people who want to keep bees?
Chris: Be committed to it and enjoy the learning process.