Hive to Table

What is Honey?

Honeybees produce honey as a storable energy source collected as nectar from flowers. Honey is a complex product comprising of more than 180 different substances, and is collected from the flowers by the honeybee. Nectar contains a mix of simple natural sugars, water, vitamins, minerals, trace elements, organic acids and other unique plant compounds.

What is the best way to store honey?

Liquid honey is best stored at above 24°C (75°F), or in the fridge i.e. below 4°C (39°F).

Creamed honey is best stored below 18°C (64°F).

What is a beehive made from?

Our beehives are made up of 3 or 4 wooden boxes containing 8 to 10 beeswax combs each. By law the New Zealand beehive has to be constructed in a manner that allows for the honey combs to be removed and inspected for the presence of any bee disease. This helps any disease being recognised and dealt with before it can spread.

The queen lives in the bottom half of the hive and helps raise the young bees. There is a special queen excluder that restricts the queen’s access from the top half of the hive. The worker bees, which are all female, store the surplus honey they collect in the honey boxes that are placed above the queen excluder. Once the honey boxes are full of fresh honey the beekeeper removes it to then be extracted.

How long do bees live for?

Only about 6 to 8 weeks in summer when they are busy collecting honey and pollinating. However during the winter the bees hibernate and the bees may live up to 6 months. The queen can live for 5 years.

Why are bees so important to our environment?

The most important role a bee contributes to our world is pollination. Over half our fruit, nuts and vegetables require pollination by honey bees. Many scientists agree that life as we all know it would cease to exist without the humble Honey Bee.

How much honey does a hive produce in one season?

In New Zealand we produce approximately 30kg per hive although this can vary from 10 to 70kg depending on the weather when the flowers are out.

What is the effect of Varroa on beekeeping?

New Zealand’s hive numbers have gone up 25% since Varroa arrived. This is mainly due to better beekeeping practices. New Zealand’s bee breeders are actively working toward developing new strains of bees which are Varroa resistant.

Beekeepers in New Zealand treat their hives when the bees are not collecting honey usually once or twice per year to control infection. The Varroa mite will kill a hive if not managed correctly. Varroa has just about infected every beehive in every nation on earth over the last 15 years wiping out all unmanaged or wild hives. Never before has the world found itself in a position with its future food security is based solely in the hands of beekeepers and their humble honey bee.