Jun, 2 2022

Turning Off for the Off-Season

By Andrew Stratford

Temperatures are cooling down. Frosts and wet weather. Muddy ground. Fires going inside or heat pumps, heaters. If you’ve experienced the move from a damp cold house to a well insulated new home, you never really want to go back to the former.

Thinking about bees and winter and comparing them to humans and winter, we both experience much the same stuff. Warm, dry and well insulated homes with plenty of food available and we’re pretty happy campers. The opposite is not such a great place to be. Cold, damp and dripping homes with not much to eat. Sounds pretty miserable to me. Just saying…

I’m heading off tomorrow night for a boy’s weekend with eight of my good mates. We’ll be playing golf in the Hawke’s Bay. It’s a bit of a drive, but this is a once-a-year treat. Time to catch up with friends and compete. All in good fun, right? It’ll be a fantastic weekend with lots of banter, some good wine and food, and some good golf with a bunch of really competitive lads.

Is it time you hit the fairways? It’s the beekeeping off-season and those who do it for a job should try and take some time off, says industry veteran and consultant Andrew Stratford.

I’ve spent a lot more time fishing this past year than playing golf and a lot more time than that working, so it’s not necessarily the golf that will be the highlight for me. The key thing is, I have time and I’m going to enjoy some of it without thinking about bees. I want to encourage you to make sure, if you keep bees for a living, that you take the time now to re-energise yourself. Mountain biking, fishing, cooking, visiting the Islands, meeting up with old friends for a few days, seeing your kids or grandkids, or just putting your feet up. Whatever it is that refreshes you, take the time – at least a week, preferably more, to enjoy it.

One of my biggest mistakes was thinking I had to spend every moment thinking about bees. It drove my poor wife crazy sometimes. I took myself far too seriously and needed to understand that, sometimes, less is better. Sure, do the work when you need to, but once it’s done, take some time out and enjoy the fruits (I realise these are scarce currently) of your labour. Try something new. Start learning something in a completely different field. Is there something you wanted to do or learn?

I started learning French a couple of years ago on a phone app. I still can’t speak it, but one day I’ll go to France for a period of time and I’ll certainly have the basics sorted. Three of my grandkids are French, so I want to be able to understand them in their language one day. I’m thinking about learning how to build stone walls. What have you always wanted to do?

Okay, I hear some of you saying, “I thought this was a bee forum, where we learn about bees” … So, if you have to do something with bees at this time of year, ask yourself some of the key questions:

- Do I need to order any queens for the late spring?

- Do I know what I’m going to be using for my spring varroa treatments?

- Maybe I could learn about how to conduct mite counts (for those of you who don’t know) and why I should be doing them.

- Have I got a plan for spring and the season ahead?

Have a great OFF-season.

Andrew Stratford is an apiculture consultant with 30 years beekeeping experience. He forms part of MyApiary’s management advisory team.


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