The rising profile of mānuka honey has brought many benefits, but the industry's growth has caused the odd hiccup too.

Fly-by-night operators are regularly reported by landowners, trucking hives into the back-country during the honey flow, without bothering to meet obligations around registration of hive sites and communication with landowners.

Rural security can also be an issue, as opportunism and competition for sites result in hive theft and vandalism.

Unrealistic expectations around returns are regularly reported; landowners are often unaware of the level of weather-driven volatility of honey production or that returns from other honey types are not comparable to mānuka.


Inexperience is another issue, whether a novice beekeeper, a farmer adding a new string to their bow, or a landowner hosting unfamiliar 'livestock'.

There are a few things that landowners and beekeepers can do to help make the whole process run smoothly.

Bees can fly several kilometres to feed, but there is a limit to how many hives an area can sustain. Unfortunately, we hear of cases when hives are placed on roadsides or up against boundaries in an attempt to take advantage of feed, without a thought for hives already there.

Landowners may start to notice this behaviour (known as 'hive stacking') more as summer approaches.

'Hive stacking' lowers production for everyone and may make it uneconomic.

At the risk of sounding parochial, getting to know your local beekeepers can be a good idea for farmers. They often generate fewer complaints, with a greater incentive to look after their own patch and can provide year-round pollination services. Don't be seduced by someone coming up your driveway promising returns too good to be true and check their background as you would with any other business relationship.

Despite occasional speed bumps, beekeeping remains a vibrant, sustainable industry complimentary to other farming systems and a welcome revenue stream for many hill country farmers. That's got to be good for everyone.