November 30, 2016
Following a fairly devastating recent earthquake in New Zealand, there have been damaged beehives and bee losses among the casualties on the island. The difficulty of reaching the isolated bee hives, in addition to damages and losses, are just some of the challenges facing New Zealand’s Upper South Island beekeepers.
“Like other primary producers, it’s been a hugely challenging time as local beekeepers deal with the fallout from the earthquake, and our thoughts go out to all those affected,” said John Hartnell, a Canterbury-based board member of Apiculture New Zealand. “Not only are local beekeepers having to deal with loss of honeybee life, a number of them are unable to check their hives as the slips and land instability have meant no immediate access to the land. For some, that means the only way in is via helicopter.”
The New Zealand beekeeping industry is trying to work through the full impact of the situation and the devastation the earthquake has brought forward. The scale was significant given the region’s activity—there are 1500 beekeepers in the Blenheim and Canterbury regions of New Zealand, and they have a total of 124,000 hives between them. Their economic value, with the pollination, the honey, and other bee products, has an estimated value of $155 million per year.
These hives do not only produce honey and other bee products like balm and wax; these honeybees also play a huge role in the pollination of the pastoral clover for nitrogen regeneration. They specialize in small seed crops, such as berries, stone fruit, and pip fruit orchards. “Our industry works hand in hand with the rural and horticulture sector, and as we get to grips with the extent of the damage and impacts, both short and long-term, we will need to continue to support each other through this difficult time,” Hartnell stated.
Karin Kos, the chief executive of Apiculture New Zealand, said it was very encouraging to see so many offers of aid pour in across the country as well as the wider industry partners and even the NZ government, which sent a rural support package. There is also a government help line available. “Apiculture New Zealand, as the peak body supporting New Zealand beekeepers and the wider honey products industry, will be working closely with government and the wider industry to ensure there is ongoing support for our members affected by the quake,” Kos said.