© Artem Sitak

Artem Sitak has been helping his friend tend to six bee hives in Auckland, New Zealand.

With Tennis Career On Hold, Sitak Shifts To Plan Bee

Learn about what Sitak has been doing in Auckland, New Zealand

Five-time ATP Tour doubles champion Artem Sitak has found a potential ‘Plan Bee’ for life after tennis during the suspension of play due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sitak, who is staying with a friend, Bryan Lang, in New Zealand, has been hands-on with 120,000 bees. Lang has six hives on his roof and is a “semi-professional beekeeper”, and Sitak has been more than happy to help.

“Obviously I’m here every day so I can do more, and it’s fun. It’s cool to do it. Definitely something different. Maybe I’ll do something bee-related after tennis because I know quite a bit already,” Sitak told ATPTour.com. “It’s absolutely amazing [watching them], what you need to do with the process, how they operate. It’s quite impressive.”

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One of the big responsibilities Sitak has helped with is marking the queens of each hive. They do that in order to find the queen quickly when the bees begin swarming.

“You quickly get the queen out with maybe half the other bees and put them in another hive so they think they did swarm and they’re not flying away. You’re not losing half your bees,” Sitak said. “You have to stay on top of it. You have to see when they’re going to do that, because there are some signs. They are producing some kind of substance and they put a new baby queen in, and that means they’re going to start swarming very soon.”

Lang, who annually goes to the Australian Open and Wimbledon with the former World No. 32, began his work with bees about six years ago, getting 300 kilograms of honey per year. People call him to extract swarms from their houses. Sitak even accompanied him to deal with one swarm on the 12th floor of an apartment building.

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It’s safe to say Sitak, who has only been stung a few times, has taken advantage of the honey, eating it on toast for breakfast daily.

“That honey tastes so much better than the grocery store honey because there’s no added sugar,” Sitak said. “It’s very thick. I love it. I think I ate like 10 pounds of it in the past six weeks.”

Although the ATP Tour is still suspended due to coronavirus, Sitak has been doing more than just eating honey and tending to bees.

“I’ve been doing a lot of fitness. We have a lot of hills here in Auckland so I’ve just been running up the very steep hills. Sprinting up, running around. Just doing a lot of running and hitting against a wall I found nearby,” Sitak said. “We’re not allowed to play on courts yet. Hopefully in a week or so we’ll be able to play, so I’ll start proper training.”

What’s more difficult to prepare for: a tricky set of doubles opponents or swarming bees?

Sitak laughed before saying: “The bees definitely have much more complicated tactics than doubles.”

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