Organic beehives going to North Island to avoid 1080

Renowned West Coast beekeeper Roy Arbon is moving his main hives to the North Island to ensure his bee products stay organic.

The organic beekeeper has based his bee operation just north of Barrytown for 22 years, but is concerned the Department of Conservation's use of 1080 on the West Coast is affecting his bees.

''The 1080 is dropped in the wintertime and the bees pick up the residue on the rata vine and take it back to the hive. No chemical company will test for it - the only people that will test for it is Landcare,'' he said.

Mr Arbon is moving most of his hives to Ruatoria, where he can ensure the bees are in a 1080-free area, he says.

''It is one of the few 1080-free areas left in the country.''

Mr Arbon started organic beekeeping in 1977 with one hive in central Christchurch, and later collaborated with Lincoln University professor Bob Crowder, ''a guru in organics'', he said.

''I've always been interested in alternative things and so I got into beekeeping.''

His beekeeping work has also taken him to Canada and the United States, where he spent time working at several organic bee operations.

The Paparoa Bee Co produces organic comb honey, cream honey, pollen and beeswax for the local market and exports about 10 tonnes of honey to the United States annually.

''I am the only person able to export the organic honey to the US under manuka,'' he said.

The products are all packed in New Zealand and sold through US health food companies Wholefoods and Dr Mercola.

Mr Arbon will retain some of his hives in a non-commercial and highly dense rata area on the West Coast and continue to sell locally at farmers' markets in Greymouth, Westport and Hokitika as well as Gisborne.

Despite his move, Mr Arbon is positive about organic beekeeping in New Zealand.

''Prospects for New Zealand organic beekeeping are good, but the time is not right for natural beekeeping until we get another incursion of EFB [European foulbrood] or hive beetle.

''It's not about the money, it's about the environment. Our grandchildren won't know bees without man's input because of all the chemicals and not doing it naturally.''

- by Rachel Harris 

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