A Northland hapu is keen to track down the owners of 47 unmarked beehives which were left without permission next to manuka trees on its land.

The hives, which have honey-producing bees in them, were found on Te Uri o Hau land near Pouto and have been moved off site to a secure location.

Paul Martin, president of the Whangarei Bee Club and board member for Apiculture New Zealand said with high prices for manuka honey - which can fetch $21 to $28 a kilogram domestically; $30 to $50 a kg in international markets; or $1000 a kg for medical-grade manuka - there were some irresponsible beekeepers around.

"We're constantly looking at ways the industry can control some of the less responsible individuals and with the money around for manuka that's promoted a few of them. It's brought with it some less good things like what you're seeing," he said.

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Mr Martin said it was entirely possible a beekeeper may have mistaken boundary lines or thought they had permission to place hives on the land.

Te Uri o Hau placed a public notice in the Northern Advocate, e keen to find the owners.

"The hives have been confiscated but will be returned to owner, after proof of ownership is confirmed, in the same condition as when they were found," the notice said.

A beehive costs about $500 to $1000 to make; frames, bees, and honey can raise the value to $3000, at the upper end of the scale.

"The more boxes you have on it and the more honey it contains then obviously the more values in there," Mr Martin said.

Mr Martin said the cost to rent land to place hives on ranges from a couple pottles of honey to $50 a year per hive if the land has manuka trees.

He said it was concerning the hives were unidentifiable.

The Biosecurity (National American Foulbrood Pest Management Plan) Order 1998 -
which New Zealand operates under - requires beekeepers to mark their identification code on the outside of a beehive within each apiary or on a sign within each apiary.

"If you've got that many hives that don't have a beekeeper number associated with it that's a concern. You'd been pretty silly to place 47 hives on land you didn't have permission to place them on because they're worth a fair bit of money," he said.