Firefighters dampening down hotspots at a fire which destroyed a Waikato apiary are expecting some unwanted visitors this morning - thousands of hungry bees.
Nine fire crews from around the district as well as multiple water tankers and support crews were called to a "massive" fire that destroyed Bees' Inn Apiaries main building last night.
Waikato fire assistant area commander Mark Tinworth said firefighters had remained at the scene all night and were this morning still dampening down hotspots.
However, they had since been told by owner Dave West that approximately 100 tonnes of honey that had been melted and left running seeping out of building would attract thousands of hungry bees.
Tinworth said they were expected sometime after 9.30am as the temperature warmed up for the day.
Asked how they would tackle it, Tinworth said their only option was to retreat and let the bees do their thing; firefighters' safety was their priority.
He said they wouldn't leave the scene and would be given bee safety equipment to wear if needed.
West said the bees would hang around all day once they got the smell of the honey and only leave once it cooled again and darkness sat in.
The shock of what had happened was still sinking in for the Ohaupo businessman whose family had been in the area so long the road they lived and worked on was named after them.
"We run about 4000 beehives and produce honey and sell in retail packs and export."
The processing of the honey from the hives is done at the factory, which also had a packing area and office. The rest of the 10,000sq ft building stored 300-litre and 200-litre drums of raw honey, only stacked up inside yesterday as it got ready for export.
He estimated about 100 tonnes of honey was inside; honey which they had manufactured over at least the past 18 months.
"We actually only own four drums of honey, that's all we own now."
Asked how he was feeling, West said he was "pretty gutted" but the severity of what happened was still sinking in. However, knowing that he would now not be able to fulfill the many export orders that were due to be sent off was a reality sinking in fast.
"We had export orders going out over the next two or three packs, all packed and ready to go. And of course we're now down to four drums of honey, which, yeah, is a bit gut-wrenching as we were getting into the export market quite nicely.
"We had just loaded the factory of honey from the containers all ready to start processing, only yesterday morning, so the whole place was just full."
They'd been able to establish themselves in the export business over the past 18 months, he said.
The company did have some insurance "but it's never enough" to cover all of what was lost.
"It's all gone ... everything's destroyed. There's not a bloody thing left."
There were a total of 10 staff, which included his wife and two sons, Terry and Keith.
The family had owned the business for about 18 years but his grandfather had originally owned the land.
He said news of the blaze had travelled fast and he'd received texts of support from all around the country, which he'd appreciated.
As for the bees, he said they would start arriving from 9am and increase as the temperatures increased throughout the day.
One lane of West Rd would be closed to protect pedestrians however neighbouring properties should be safe, he said.
"If the taste of honey is still there the bees will work it. They'll take it back to their hive."
He said there would no risk of the fire-ravaged honey contaminating other hives.
As for attacking the fire, Tinworth said as well as the bees, another risk to crews was the building itself, the framing of which has been left dangling, twisted and crumpled meaning they wouldn't be able to get inside.
"If you look at the way it's fallen in we couldn't put anyone inside it because of the risk to firefighters.
"There's still hotspots smouldering under the iron and bits and pieces and we won't be able to get that until we get some machinery to clear that out."
Tinworth praised the efforts of the volunteer brigades from Te Awamutu, Pirongia, Otorohanga and Cambridge, who were confronted with the fiery blaze when first to the scene.
"Our volunteer brigades were the first ones here and they did a great job ... the support from volunteers has been amazing and we had support from Hamilton as well."