Bees – the love gurus of the garden
Bees often don’t get a good rap. They’re commonly painted as the most formidable creature in the garden, their sting stirring fear in the souls of every child, and their incessant buzz often drowning out the melodic sound of birdsong.
But did you know that bees are actually love gurus of the garden – and the New Zealand economy? No actually; we’re serious.
In a nutshell, bees are the pimps of the horticultural world. Simply put, bees pick up pollen grains, the male sex cells of a flower, on their hairy legs, then transport them across crops and unite them with the stigma, or the female organ of a flower, thus allowing crops to reproduce.
Essential to horticultural production
“So?” I hear you ask. “Don’t bees just fly around the garden?” Yes, but they’re also essential for large-scale horticultural production all over the world. In fact, of the 100 crops that supply 90% of the whole world’s food, 70 are dependent on bee pollination. Without bees, then, crops would die out after just one generation.
European honeybees and their hives first arrived in New Zealand in the 1800s; approximately 150 years later it’s estimated bees now contribute a whopping 1-2 billion dollars to the New Zealand economy every single year. Today you’ll find more than 320,000 beehives owned by almost 5,000 beekeepers in New Zealand, all of which produce a massive 10,600 tonnes of natural honey and bee products annually.
A wide variety of products from these tiny bees
When it comes to those bee products, the list is virtually endless. In particular New Zealand is most well-known for our Manuka honey which is not only filled with medicinal benefits, but is also delicious. The types of honey produced in New Zealand beehives depends entirely on the crops the bees frequent. Some are very mild while others are very strong; some are pale while others are deep and rich; some have a delicate aroma while others are quite pungent. We also produce a wide range of natural bee and beeswax products like propolis, royal jelly and bee venom, and we even export live bees to other parts of the world.
Ultimately, New Zealand’s clean green and pure environment makes ideal conditions for bees and their honey. Our natural isolation from the rest of the world makes it an ideal spot for the production of honey – although sadly we’re not invincible. Stricter border controls were put in place in the early 2000s after the discovery of Varroa mites which are lethal to beehives. These days passengers passing through customs on our borders are restricted from bringing plant- and honey-based products into our country.
Beekeeping in New Zealand is about quality
Beekeeping isn’t one of those hobbies that any old person can just pick up though. In fact, New Zealand goes to great lengths to maintain our quality and reputation by enforcing a number of beekeeping rules and regulations. For example, it’s a legal requirement for all beekeepers to register with AsureQuality’s apiary database. The National Beekeepers Association of New Zealand (NBA) protects and promotes beekeeping in New Zealand, and advocates the ongoing development of New Zealand’s beekeeping industry.
So next time you pick up a pot of natural New Zealand honey, take a moment to appreciate the bees it came from. Because without them, we wouldn’t have much of the food we take for granted today.