Build your own beekeeping club
How to Start a beekeeping group in your neighbourhood
Like their tiny charges, beekeepers tend to congregate in groups. You may not know it, but there’s probably a beekeeping club near you – New Zealand has around 29 active clubs. Beekeeping groups are a source of community, learning and support for beginner and experienced beekeepers. They give you a place to share ideas and ask questions, commiserate about problems, and find new techniques and products.
But what happens if you live in a remote area without a beekeeping club? Or if there is a club, but you don’t feel that it’s right for you? You could choose to go on as a solo beekeeper, or you could find some like-minded locals and start your own bee group.
Although some groups are very formal, with rules of engagement, boards, officers and dues, yours doesn’t have to be. A bee club can be as simple as a group of keepers meeting once a month at a café and chatting.
Here’s how to get started:
A club isn’t really a club without members, so start there. Post on Facebook asking for interest in beekeeping groups, put up a sign in the local library, or ask beekeepers you know to get the word out. If you get enough interest, you can establish a mailing list or Facebook group of potential members and send them the details of the first meeting.
Book a space
Next, you need a space to hold meetings. You could use your home, but you may not feel comfortable inviting a group of strangers in – or you may not have enough room. Check whether your local library has rooms that you can book, or just book a table in a pub or café.
Hold your first meeting
Once you’ve found a suitable space, organise your first meeting. Set a date and time, let potential members know, and then it’s up to you. You may want to set a rough agenda or suggest some focus questions to guide discussion, or simply let people chat. If the first meeting is a success, set another date in a month – or two – and you’re away. Your bee club doesn’t have to be any more formal than that.
Call in the experts
One of the main benefits of a bee club is access to advice from experts and experienced beekeepers. If you’re lucky, some of your members will be knowledgeable and happy to share their expertise with others by speaking at meetings, answering questions, or demonstrating techniques. Many beekeeping groups take ‘field trips’ to see the hives of various members and observe beekeeping in action.
If your club is made up of beginners, think about bringing in outside experts to speak at meetings – you may need to do a bit of research to find experienced beekeepers willing to help.
Making it official
Your beekeeping club can be as formal or informal as you like. If you’re happy with a monthly meeting and loose format, there’s no reason to complicate things. But if you want to expand beyond meetings and into beekeeping courses or other activities, it could help to lay out some guidelines.
This could mean:
- Electing officers – chairperson, treasurer, and secretary
- Setting rules or bylaws to govern behaviour in your club
- Getting members to pay yearly dues for club activities
- Setting an agenda for meetings and recording minutes
- Electing a board
- Registering with an industry organisation
More than meetings
Many beekeeping clubs do far more than simply talk about bees. They run beekeeping courses for beginners, maintain a library of beekeeping books and resources, rent out equipment or honey processing rooms to members, sell honey and other bee products as a group, and advocate for environmental issues that affect bees. Your club may start small, but it could become more than you imagine.