Beekeepers rejoice in scorching summer

By Ben Chapman-Smith

Bay of Plenty beekeeper, Garth Taylor, pours smoke into a hive on a kiwifruit orchard near Te Puke. Photo / Alan Gibson
Bay of Plenty beekeeper, Garth Taylor, pours smoke into a hive on a kiwifruit orchard near Te Puke. Photo / Alan Gibson

Endless days of sunshine and light winds which have crippled North Island farmers this summer have at the same time created top conditions for honey-making.

Beekeepers are expecting an above average harvest this year after struggling for the past two seasons with poor crops.

Bees typically produce their honey over the summer months and many in the industry have been reporting good production, said Neil Stuckey, owner of the Waitemata Honey Company and vice president of the National Beekeepers Association of New Zealand (NBA).

"The ideal conditions for the bees to be able to work is hot days and still winds.

"Bees can't fly in winds above 10 knots and the flowers won't produce their nectar if the ground conditions are too cold."

Stuckey said the wet summers of recent years, which had been great for farmers, had been bad news for beekeepers.

New Zealand's honey crop, which was as high as 12,000 tonnes in some years, dropped to about 10,385 tonnes last year and 9450 tonnes the previous year.

"I'd say it's going to be an above average year for the whole country after two years well-below average," Stuckey said.

Bees were now coming to the end of their production cycle, which runs roughly from December to February.

While North Island beekeepers would lift the overall harvest, some in other regions were still reporting low production because of poor conditions, he said.

In those parts of the country where beekeepers could get "bush honey" during spring, harvests had also been down.

There were 3,251 registered beekeepers, 23,395 apiaries and 388,369 beehives in New Zealand at March 10, 2011, according to the NBA.

New Zealand exports almost one third of its honey, worth about $81 million, including $4 million of organic honey.

Earlier in the week, the Herald reported that wine growers were also having a booming season as the bone-dry summer provides outstanding grape-growing conditions across the country.

This year's vintage is expected to be bigger than the 269,000-tonne harvest in 2012, which was 18 per cent down on the 2011 crop.

A bumper vintage would pose the risk of a return to oversupply though, which could result in a drop in wine prices.

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