The once fine and noble New Zealand beekeeping industry, made up of valiant beekeepers who loved this hobby and produced sufficient honey for us all, has vanished. It has been replaced by greedy and often irresponsible corporate entities, foreign market dominators and unscrupulous individuals. This new industry of wealthy bandits, driven by the manuka gold rush, have absolutely no honest interest in the bees’ wellbeing, the environment or giving back to the community. To make matters worse, nothing has been done to stop this terrible trend, in fact just the opposite.
In 2014, there were 452,000 hives in NZ and now there are one million. Hive numbers continue to climb, producing hive overpopulation. However, the industry is silent about this issue as it wants us to believe we can all reap profits from manuka honey. Well, guess what? We can’t.
Last summer, my bees and I experienced overpopulation first-hand when an individual decided to place 60 hives in the immediate vicinity of my apiary. Each beehive can contain up to 60,000 bees. My bees struggled all summer due to the sheer number of extra bees devouring food sources, not to mention my girls having to constantly fight off robbing bees attacking our hives. To make matters worse, over a three-month period, I never once met the negligent owner inspecting their hives or checking to see if their bees were healthy or starving. Sadly, other than reporting the issue, there was not much else I could do about this obvious case of hive overpopulation and neglect.
As a Matakana beekeeper, I have noticed a large increase in hives in my neighbourhood over the last five years. Unfortunately, what people do not realise is that while beehive numbers have tripled, our gardens and flowers have not. There is just not enough pollen and nectar out there, folks. Furthermore, due to climate change, NZ now has very wet springs and torrid summers, which means flowers do not have the right conditions to produce nectar. No nectar means no honey.
Uneducated and unregistered beekeepers pose a huge threat to us all and the multimillion dollar honey industry. The capacity to inspect a hive and identify disease is fundamental to beekeeping, as is registering your hive to better control disease. As the number of bee colonies rises, responsible beekeeping practices must be put in place to prevent NZ ending up with catastrophic hive losses like those suffered in the United States and several European countries.
On a sweeter note, Warkworth Beekeepers Society remains true to its prime objective of bee education for the community. Come along and join us on the first Wednesday of every month at Warkworth Primary School at 7.30pm.