The honey industry has been booming, with export values increasing nearly 400 per cent over 10 years, thanks to the premium being enjoyed from mānuka honey.
But while export numbers continue to look good, some say the industry is going from boom to bust.
Havelock North third-generation beekeeper John Berry says the quest for more mānuka honey is a cost borne by all beekeepers.
"There are about half-a-million hives too many in New Zealand at the moment," he said.
"I keep a 10-year-average - I've got averages going back about 60 years - and my 10-year-average is just plummeting.
"Some of it is to do with weather but most of it is to do with just too many hives.
"It wasn't so bad up until a couple of years ago when prices were high.
"The prices for honey have come back considerably, including for mānuka despite all the hype you hear.
"There are hundreds of tonnes of mānuka sitting in beekeepers' sheds at the moment, that they can't sell."
He said last season was "a reasonable honey crop" but he lost money on it.
"No wages for me for the whole year and it didn't even cover my expenses. And my costs are pretty low because I've been doing this a long time."
Berry said because of the extra hives he has to spend more money and time feeding his hives, typically done with a sugar solution.
The increased feeding is thanks to the many newcomers' hives, the majority used to chase mānuka honey, which can fetch many times more than non-mānuka honey.
A 230g jar of mānuka honey, which measured very high in the honey's unique ingredients which are said to be health-giving, was recently on sale for $5000 in Harrods of London.
Beehives in New Zealand produce on average about 28kg of honey a year.
Hawke's Bay is a popular place to keep beehives over winter because of its dry winters and there is orchard-pollination work available.
But with hive numbers increasing and bees flying kilometers for food, Hawke's Bay is crowded with bees.
Berry said established honey companies would only put hives at least 3km from competitors.
"Everybody had their areas, everybody behaved themselves, but when the corporates moved in they just dumped thousands of hives right beside everybody else.
"I've got a yard down Tikokino I run 16 hives on. I came there one day and two paddocks away there were 180 hives. It just doesn't work."
Rare New Zealand's owners have been in the honey industry for seven years.
They left another mānuka-chasing Hawke's Bay honey company to start their own.
Director Michael Molloy said he believed the industry would go through "a bit of a re-adjusting couple of years".
"There's a lot of honey sitting in people's sheds that is starting to build up after years and years, and people were questioning whether they are going to do it again."
He said the past few years had seen "hundreds of little companies pop up" but recently those that relied on the wholesale market to sell their honey were struggling.
Some had started their own brand but, with no overseas tourists coming through New Zealand because of Covid, the market was crowded.
"But overseas there's plenty of opportunity to be had.
"It's sort of been a bit of a gold rush mentality in the past six or seven years, and a lot of people have got into it.
"Some people know what they're doing a little bit more than others."
He said there was overcrowding of hives in places.
"The bees seem to do quite a lot better when they get out and can work on their own."
Adding to industry woe is concern that bee parasite Varroa mite is growing resistant to treatment.
Berry said when Varroa first came to New Zealand around 2000 "it actually increased honey production by about 10 to 15 per cent".
"That was because all the feral hives were gone, so there was actually less competition for the bees and they did better.
"And then all these hives got dumped on and it's gone the other way.
"The biggest problem with Varroa now is some of the Varroa treatments, particularly synthetic pyrethroids in some areas including Hawke's Bay, are no longer working.
"Last winter and August some beekeepers lost up to 50 per cent of their hives because the strips just didn't work.
"We are not talking about one or two hives here, we are talking about 10,000 to 30,000 hives."
Apiculture New Zealand chief executive Karin Kos said there were reports of high incidences of Varroa.
"Varroa was a key focus of our national conference in June and the clear message was that regular monitoring and treatment are critical and that any suggestion of resistance to treatment needs to be backed with good science first."
She said the future of the honey market was strong, despite a current supply-demand imbalance for some honey and increased costs.
'The global retail honey market is forecast to grow 30 per cent in the next five years [from $11.1bn to $14.6bn] and mānuka honey is a nascent category globally and has more room to grow."
To the end of June honey exports totalled $482 million, up from just $98m in 2010.