Beekeepers are being advised to test their honey for tutin toxins as drought conditions are raising the risk of toxic honey this year.
The National Beekeepers Association (NBA) says larger or commercial beekeepers do this testing as standard practice, but smaller beekeepers may not always realise the need.
As drought conditions cut down the options for food for foraging bees, there is an increased chance the bees will feed from the tutu plant which produces dangerous tutin toxins in honey.
The NBA advises beekeepers to homogenise their honey and then test it for tutin levels. This advice is particularly important for smaller or 'hobbyist' beekeepers who sell or give away their honey to friends and relatives.
The association suggests beekeepers with small hive holdings with beehives within approximately two kilometres of tutu bushes in the North Island or upper parts of the South Island, get their honey tested, by sending it to (for example) Hills Laboratories, Ph: 07 8582000 or Eurofins 07 838 5920.
As tutin is not evenly distributed in honey comb, this product from particularly risky areas should be avoided. 'At risk' areas can be found throughout the North Island and the top of the South Island.
Toxic honey can have a severe effect on the human nervous system and symptoms include vomiting, delirium, and seizures.
The NBA says the risk is higher this year because of the drought conditions in many areas.