Fijian beekeepers here to learn about varroa

Fijian beekeepers, from left,  Tai Kadavaki (25), Tom Matai (25) and Jeremaia Salu (17) are...
Fijian beekeepers, from left, Tai Kadavaki (25), Tom Matai (25) and Jeremaia Salu (17) are learning from Central Otago beekeepers over the summer. Photo by Mark Price.
New Zealand bees are a whole lot more friendly than their Fijian cousins.

And their stings are a lot less painful.

Those are the first points made by a group of Fijian beekeepers working in Central Otago this summer when asked about beekeeping differences between the two countries.

But there are many more differences members of the group are finding as they gain work experience with Cromwell-based Lindis Honey.

Tom Matai, of Suva, points out Fiji is one of the few countries that does not have the bee-killing varroa mite.

A major reason for his six-month visit to New Zealand is to learn how to deal with it when it arrives on his home island of Viti Levu.

He and Tai Kadavaki, from the Cromwell-sized town of Savusavu, on Vanua Levu, work for beekeepers in Fiji but hope to set up in business for themselves one day.

They have been encouraged in their beekeeping enterprises by the Australian Northern Christian Training Centre, which is aiming to help fund a primary school for 100 Savusavu children through the sale of honey.

Tim Wood, of the family-owned Lindis Honey business, has spent time helping the beekeeping industry in Fiji and considers it a more difficult environment in which to work.

Not only are the bees more aggressive but it takes much longer to collect the honey.

''Here our honey flow is quite intense but there it's quite long and drawn out.''

There are also land ownership, bureaucracy and corruption issues to deal with.

Fiji honey came from a mixture of flowers, he said, with the coconut palm product being ''a really nice, light honey''.

Mr Wood said there were a few commercial beekeepers in Fiji with a few hundred hives but it was a relatively undeveloped industry.

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