October 16, 2017
Since the citizens of New Zealand realized how much money they could bring into their economy and their own pockets through Manuka honey, the market for the rich specialty honey has exploded globally and inspired numerous people throughout the small island country to get into the beekeeping business. With millions of honeybees acquiring nectar from the rampant Manuka bush—thought of as an invasive nuisance of a weed back in the 1950s—business is only growing for the industry, and, per recent reports, it’s set to hit a new milestone come Christmas 2017.
The number for New Zealand beehives will hit one million by the end of the year, a feat no one likely expected in decades past. With some of these hives’ caretakers being commercial beekeepers with likely many years’ experience and the others being hobbyists, one beekeeping equipment supplier in the South Island town of Dunedin is urging the latter group to make sure they have proper mentoring and a support network before going further. This supplier, Brian Pilley, who is also president of his local Beekeepers’ Club, said that the past several years indicated a growing interest in hobby beekeeping.
The club’s members include hobbyists with various backgrounds, and the club itself provides education for those with less experience. Beeline Supplies, Pilley’s company, even avoids selling beekeeping equipment to individuals who lack either mentoring, support networks, or don’t have membership with a club. ''We are really conscious of people who have done a course, or get some hives and do not have a clue what they are doing,” Pilley said.
“There is more to beekeeping than most people realize as it is not like keeping a cat or dog.'' Amateur beekeepers could unintentionally cause issues for other local beekeepers, such as those regarding American foulbrood or varroa mites. ''That could have a major impact on beekeepers, so we have got to be responsible,'' Pilley said.
Paul Martin, a board member for Apiculture NZ, said the numbers for beekeepers and beehives were rising ''exponentially'' over the last decade. ''Certainly, a huge proportion of those are hobbyists. We have coming up to 8,500 in New Zealand, and of those about 6,000 have 10 hives or less.'' Individuals began seeing Manuka honey’s earning potential, leading to the increase of hives and the country’s million hive mark. Martin agreed with Pilley that it’s important for hobbyists to understand what they’re doing, from being able to identify and manage diseases to knowing the legal requirements for inspections and registrations. ''The industry is at a stage of phenomenal growth, and we need to manage that growth,” Martin said.
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