European Honeybees (Apis mellifera) were first introduced into New Zealand in 1839. With a range of native flora found nowhere else in the World, plus a number of introduced plants that grow prolifically in New Zealand's temperate climate, our honeybees create honeys that are the very distillation of New Zealand's essential ancient Gondwanaland origins.
These honeys cover a huge range of flavour types and properties. From mild to very strong flavoured, light to dark coloured, delicately perfumed to pungent and even honeys with significant antibacterial properties.
Today, New Zealand has 320,000 beehives that produce an average annual crop of 10,600 tonnes of honey. These hives are owned by nearly 5,000 beekeepers and are spread over 22,000 apiaries (sites where beehives are kept). The greater number of these beekeepers are hobbyists with 88.3% of them owning an average of only 5 hives. The remaining 11.7% of beekeepers are commercial and semi commercial operators managing an average of 513 hives each.
Over 1/3rd of New Zealand's beehives are moved into pollination of commercial crops each year. This includes kiwifruit, apples, pears, apricots, small seeds and pastoral pollination. It is estimated that the value of pollination from beekeeping is worth around NZ$1-2 billion annually to the New Zealand economy. The largest portion of this is the pollination of clover in pastures, where the clover provides a nitrogen fixing benefit.
New Zealand provides both package bees and queen bees for export. This trade started with the export of queen bees to Canada in the late '60s and has grown to where large quantities of exports of queen bees and packages are sent to many countries around the World.
Most of New Zealand's beestock is "Italian"strain (Apis mellifera ligustica) but in many areas "English Black" (Apis mellifera mellifera)bees are endemic.
Other Hive Products
A range of other hive products are produced in New Zealand. Pollen and Propolis are the two most important ones. Others are Royal Jelly and Bee Venom.
Few Bee Diseases
It is fortunate that during the early introductions of honeybees to New Zealand, few of the World's major bee diseases accompanied them. Today New Zealand's isolation and agricultural quarantine requirements help to perpetuate this situation, but as shown by the discovery of Varroa mites in New Zealand in April 2000, we are not immune to the increasing spread and globalization of pests and diseases Worldwide.
The current lack of European Foulbrood and a nationwide Management Strategy for American Foulbrood is the reason that the feeding of antibiotics for these bacterial brood diseases is illegal in New Zealand, unlike most other major honey producing countries where this is routine.
As a developed country, but with a small population, New Zealand has the advantage of both large areas of natural flora, plus modern, sanitary extracting and processing plant and equipment.