A new honey extraction plant in Alexandra is set to process tonnes of honey in the district, and demand for pollination services is also increasing.

The Otago Bees Ltd plant was an expansion brought on by a strong honey sector and potential for the district, Otago Bees manager Dillon Greaves said.

The plant, purpose-built about six months ago, is in a building in Dunstan Rd, Alexandra, which used to be part of the William Hill winery complex. It is expected to begin production this month.

Tim Wood
Tim Wood

Mr Greaves would not say how much the plant cost, but said he thought it would be the biggest in Central Otago. It would be capable of processing a tonne of honey an hour and at the peak of the season would hopefully process about 10 tonnes a day. It would process not only Otago Bees honey, but honey from other beekeeping firms.

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Mr Greaves said another development for Otago Bees was the start of pollination services using some of its 3500 hives. Demand for pollination services was increasing because of increased orchard plantings in Central Otago and the demise of the wild bee population, he said.

Lindis Honey co-owner Tim Wood said demand for pollination services from his firm was also increasing, partly because of increased cherry plantings in Central Otago, but also because of increased carrot seed plantings by farmers in the Lindis region.

These required pollination during the summer, so followed the spring season for pollination of cherry trees.

The number of Lindis Honey hives had increased from about 2500 three years ago to 4500 now, and the company hoped to build up another 1000 to cope with the increased demand for pollination, Mr Wood said.

The demand was heightened by the wild bee population having ''practically'' disappeared because of the varroa mite, he said.

Lindis Honey had its own extraction plant, in Cromwell, which would be upgraded this winter, Mr Wood said.

In the Teviot Valley, Marsh's Honey has almost 1000 hives and the number of its hives is steadily increasing each year.

Owner Russell Marsh said pollination services were an important part of his business and he was pleased to support orchardists.

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''It's about the integration into the community. If I can help the orchardists to do well, that helps our community. We make sure that the guys [orchardists] around us are well supported.''

He said as well as servicing new plantings, more hives were also needed for orchardists who were ''realising the benefit'' of pollination services and requesting more hives to service existing trees.

All beekeepers said this honey season had been a good one.
pam.jones@odt.co.nz