1492491596210 - Bees at risk from overstocking as outside honey firms move in, beekeepers say

Bees at risk from overstocking as outside honey firms move in, beekeepers say

Apiarists from outside Taranaki are bringing in so many bees they threaten the viability of local hives, two New Plymouth beekeepers say.

Chris Halton, Hurworth, who has 20 beehives, said he was approached this week by an outside company wanting to overwinter hives on his property. 

A manuka honey company based in the Wairarapa has had staff doorknocking landowners around New Plymouths’ perimeter, he said.

Halton said land owners often had the mistaken impression that by hosting the outside hives, they were helping bees, but in fact they were helping to starve them.

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Over winter, the huge numbers of  imported bees would compete with the permanent hives for any available food.

“They are stripping out New Plymouth, all the little club type beekeepers, they’ll be affected too. They’ve got 200, 300, 400 hives and they are feeding them sugar but their bees also go out foraging.”

The issue could be likened to a farmer with enough grass to feed 500 cows having someone bring in 10,000 cows next door, then take down all the fences between the farms.

The over stocking meant there wasn’t enough food and he was already having to supplement his bees.

“I’m having to feed all of my hives sugar syrup when there should be plenty of food.”

Taranaki’s Bees-R-Us owners Stephen and Fiona Black, New Plymouth, said the over stocking came on the end of a very poor summer.

The couple’s honey harvest was down by around 60 per cent on normal due to the wet summer, Fiona Black said.

Many of the customers in their New Plymouth shop had told her they had not harvested any honey from their hives this summer.

“It’s just a hobby for them, they will wait until next year, but for us it’s our livelihood.”

Stephen Black said the flow on of the problem would be poor pollination in areas where there had been too many bees.

The imported hives would be removed from Taranaki at the start of spring and taken to another district for the start of the manuka season, so they would not be there to pollinate trees and plants on the hosts’ properties.

If the lack of forage had weakened or killed off local hives, there would be a shortage of bees to pollinate in their own area.

Black said beekeepers in other regions had the same issue, which came about because manuka honey producers transported hundreds of hives around the country into each region in time for the manuka flowering.

Once the bees had harvested the lucrative manuka honey, it was cheaper for the beekeepers to overwinter them on an accessible site until spring, when they would be taken away.

“It just comes down to greed,” he said.

Apiculture New Zealand (Apinz) board member John Hartnell said the solution was for all beekeepers to use common sense and not overload areas with hives.

The accepted coverage for collecting manuka honey was one hive per hectare but this was being ignored, he said.

Apinz had drawn up a code of ethics for beekeepers to follow but the document “lacked teeth”, he said.

“The problem is nationwide as migratory beekeepers chase the honey crop from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the South Island,” he said.

“It’s frustrating for traditional resident beekeepers.” 

A beekeeper, who did not wish to be named, said it would compromise the end product if hives were placed close to other hives targeting manuka.

“When we target manuka we don’t put our hives close to other hives because the amount collected would be less than if we were in an area on our own.”

The manuka honey “explosion” had created a “dog eat dog” industry among some beekeepers, he said.

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