Beekeepers have faced a challenging summer with windy and
cool weather causing widespread problems. Photo by Stephen
It is not just holidaymakers that have been complaining
about the summer weather - bees are also not happy campers.
For many South Island pastoral beekeepers, crops were going
to be a ''disaster'' in the majority of areas and they were
probably not going to produce enough to break even when it
came to running costs for the last 12 months, Federated
Farmers bees industry group chairman John Hartnell said.
Windy and cool weather had caused widespread problems for the
industry, particularly through most of the South Island and
the east coast of the North Island.
Mr Hartnell, from Canterbury, was hearing production figures
of about 15kg a hive, when it would normally be between 35kg
If it was too cold, then the nectar did not run up into the
clover head and the flower did not yield. Strong winds meant
that bees would head out to forage but often could not get
home again, he said.
While beekeepers have had such challenging seasons before, it
was unusual that it was across such a large area. Often,
there was a ''regional pocket'' with challenges.
People needed to understand that beekeeping was different
from other farming industries, Mr Hartnell said.
''If you're a sheep or beef farmer, you'll put the bull or
ram out and get a lamb or calf. The weather will determine
how fat it gets when you sell it by the amount of grass
available. We don't have that luxury. We totally rely on
mother nature to provide the nectar.''
The costs involved with the varroa mite would also not go
away and beekeepers could not afford to not fund varroa
treatment, he said.
Central Otago beekeeper Michael Vercoe agreed conditions had
been poor for bees. The problem was that in the past, if
there was a very mild autumn, beekeepers could probably ''get
a bit of a late flow''.
But now, when they had to treat for varroa, they could not be
treating for varroa and collecting honey for human
consumption at the same time.
While Mr Vercoe had a good thyme crop this year, he reckoned
his white clover honey could be down at least 50%.
He was philosophical about the difficult season, saying
beekeeping was ''a game of swings and roundabouts''.