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18 Billion Bees go to work on Labour Day

18 Billion Bees go to work on Labour Day

While most of us will be putting our feet up on Labour Day, New Zealand's 18 billion honey bees will officially start work as they get ready for the honey flow.

This summer, these honey bees, will produce 12,000 tonnes (24 million 500 gram pots) of honey, ready for Kiwis to spread on their toast next winter.

While New Zealanders sleep at night a hive of activity will get underway as many of the bees, who have arrived home after busy days, are transported by truck back to farmland and forestry to prepare for the clover and manuka honey crops.

Here they will also start building up bee numbers for when the temperature warms up enough to make honey.

The annual move of honey bees comes after a massive $2 billion pollination job for New Zealand's agriculture and horticulture industry.

For New Zealand's largest beekeeping enterprise Arataki Honey, this involves moving 18,000 hives in two of the country's major growing regions - Bay of Plenty and Hawke's Bay.

Arataki Honey is expecting a top honey season as strong demand for manuka continues to drive increasing sales in New Zealand and overseas.

Arataki's commercial manager Rhys Flack said manuka has superseded all expectations.

"We are hoping for a strong manuka flowering season, with weather conditions just right for good production. All the preparation work is done but we are also very reliant on nature to help the bees along," he said.

New Zealanders will soon start seeing worker honey bees in the garden collecting pollen stocks to feed their brood and build up their hives.

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Mr Flack said varietal demand has changed over the years from clover to manuka, and sales are reaching record levels on the domestic and export market.

Arataki is New Zealand's favourite honey brand and the top seller of manuka honey which contributes over 40% of sales to the company's $7 million honey business.

"Twenty years ago manuka honey was a winter bee feed, we couldn't give it away. Today, with its proven health benefits, people are prepared to pay up to three times more for a pot of it, compared to traditional clover varieties.

"Currently New Zealand honey exports represent only 1% of the world honey market, with most of our 4000 tonnes of exports going to the UK. As manuka's popularity is also growing overseas, we expect it to open more export opportunities for all our honey varieties in volume and value," Mr Flack said.

New Zealanders are, per head of population, the world's top honey lovers eating an average 2kg of honey a year, that's compared with Australia at 1kg per person and Japan at 200g.

Domestically the honey business is intensely competitive and supermarket shelf space continues to tighten as it competes with other sandwich spreads.

Honey bees are by far one of the hardest working creatures on earth. A single hive, of 60,000 bees, can produce 50kg of honey a season with some producing up to 100kg in the right conditions.

All worker bees are females and they literally keep working until the day they die, which is usually from sheer exhaustion, or if they are unlucky and lose their sting in self defence, said Mr Flack.

All honey in New Zealand is totally Kiwi made and 100% natural - nothing else goes into the pot. Honey is sweeter than sugar and in cooking only half the equivalent is needed in a recipe.

New Zealanders traditionally eat more honey over winter, but summer consumption is increasing as people use the product in barbeques and cooking.

About Arataki Honey Arataki is New Zealand's leading beekeeping enterprise and favourite honey brand. The family business started 64 years ago and is the largest fully integrated honey producer - direct from hive to pot. Now in its fourth family generation Arataki employs 40 staff in Hawke's Bay and 40 in Waikato/BOP. Arataki's honey bees collect nectar and pollen from throughout the country - as far as Coromandel in the North and Gore in the South.

Bee Buzz!!

- All worker bees are female

- A bee produces a teaspoon of honey (5gms) in her lifetime

- To produce a kg of honey bees fly the equivalent of three times around the world in air miles

- The type of flower the bees take their nectar from determines the flavour of honey

- Male bees (drones) have bigger eyes to find the Queen Bee

- Bees mate high in the sky and afterwards the male bee loses the reproductive part of his anatomy and dies

- A Queen Bee can produce 2000 eggs a day- all the fertilised eggs become females & in a trick of nature unfertilised eggs, with the help of pheromones become males

- To get more bees in your garden grow more colour

- Bees love blue and love cluster plants like lavender and rosemary

- Bees don't want to sting you because they die

- New Zealand's bees are mostly from Italian blood

- far less aggressive by nature


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