Tough times for beekeepers

With the Apiculture conference happening this week in Rotorua, it was a good time to talk about beekeeping. Ricki Leahy, commercial beekeeper and ApiNZ board member, shares his thoughts on the industry and what he does to look after his wellbeing.

How I started beekeeping

I had a very classic start to beekeeping. Starting as a hobbyist with a few hives this grew into a 2,000 plus beehive operation. We keep our bees in the Buller District and employ a really good bunch of locals who have learnt the skills and really enjoy working with bees.

Beekeeping is a fascinating occupation as there is always something to learn. You are working with nature and have no impact on the environment.

Challenges facing the industry

There are always challenges that any type of farmer faces and it seems that once you overcome one, another always pops up.

In the apiculture industry beekeepers are facing two considerable challenges right now. One being overcrowding due to the massive growth the apiculture industry has experienced over the past few years. The other challenge being the downturn in prices, particularly for the non-manuka types of honey.

It’s very easy and natural for beekeepers to get stressed by these pressures.

Tough times

Many years ago, although with different circumstances, I experienced a similar time of hardship. We had a couple of poor years back-to-back, which suddenly made things very financially difficult for us.

I couldn’t afford extra beekeeper help so I overworked myself doing it all myself, working fulltime, 7 days a week. With no money in the bank and no honey to sell, it was a very stressful time that badly affected my sleep. It got very hard to always wear that ‘there is nothing wrong’ brave face.

With the current challenges, it’s once again a stressful situation for me and our bee operation.

Wellbeing tips

Rather than overthinking, I find it helpful for me to write down a short list of priorities that need to be done. Then I work on these priorities and that helps me feel better. Doing something planned and targeted each day starts to give me a sense of achievement and getting on with the job.

It helps a lot to solve each problem one by one, so I can carry on with my beekeeping with some peace of mind.

I also try to have some time not working. I find that even a small break where I take some time out, like going for a beach walk with the dog, really refreshes me and I get some exercise too.

Visit the Farmstrong website

I recommend you check out the Farmstrong website.  There are some really positive ideas and thoughts on there.  I really like the phrase ‘crisis equals opportunity’.  It reminded me that there is always a way forward.

It’s important that the beekeeping community stay connected and we look after each other.

Thanks Ricki for sharing your story and wellbeing tips. For more great tips on wellbeing and how you can be looking after yourself, have a further look around Farmstrong. Make sure you take the wellbeing checklist too.



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