Honey Bee Production in NZ
Honey in NZ is processed in a very different way to how it is processed commercially in the US.
It is not industry standard practice in NZ to feed bees sugar syrup. All honey is collected from bees that had access to natural flowers. Some orchards even bring in bees to help pollinate their trees – local beekeepers will loan them out.
Commercial honey is still extracted on site, by hand. Supers (hive boxes) are only taken off site at the end of the season, once the bees start hibernating (and using their honey stores). The majority of honey producers will allow their bees to consume the last super of honey over winter. The average 2x super hive can produce 50kg of honey per year and there is no need for bees to be given sugar syrup over winter, instead of their honey.
In many parts of the country, local honeys are produced from single flowers – in Central Otago it is usually thyme. Many honey producers set their hives up in manuka forests as New Zealand manuka honey is valuable for therapeutic uses and is rated from 5 – 26 UMF.
While there may be turf battles it is unlikely that the bees are harmed as a result. The bees are all important – the destructive and deadly varroa mite has already depleted our bee population so no one would realistically try to kill their bees.
Injuries and queen life span
A bee may get squashed, or suffer a trapped leg in the replacement of supers once the honey has been extracted, but this is not common.
The queens get killed off every couple of years, as after a few years their hormone levels decrease and are not strong enough to hold the colony.
The bees will swarm and look for another queen. This is not good news for the beekeeper, who wants to keep his hive intact, so they will get a new queen every year or two.
Bees make honey (a product of nectar) as it is their source of nutrition. When the majority of their honey disappears into our hands, they have to work harder to keep up supply, and thus we are exploiting these amazing insects.
The NZ honey industry tends to attract workers with a strong affection for bees, or who have bees themselves. This is unlike other animal industries in NZ where workers are often people who just need a job and may or may not care about the animals they look after.
The Vegan Society of Aotearoa NZ does not condone the use of honey from NZ (or any other country). It is still exploitation of another creature without their consent.