1 Sep 2017

As busy as a bee

From Country Life, 9:40 pm on 1 September 2017
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Photo: RNZ Cosmo Kentish-Barnes

Nine years ago James Malcolm got the honey bug from a beekeeper who tended to the hives on his parents' cropping farm near Ashburton.

Now the hardworking 29-year-old owns a business called Natural New Zealand Honey that has nearly 4,000 hives on properties between Ross and Fox Glacier on the West Coast and from the Waimakariri River to Kaikoura.

Attracting business partners and outside investment three years ago has meant James was able to rapidly expand his honey producing capabilities and employ more staff. Currently, he has about 20 full-time beekeepers on the payroll.

It hasn't been plain sailing, though.

A recent fire destroyed James' honey factory in Loburn and all the honey boxes and frames that were being stored in it, so thousands more need to be made before the coming season gets underway.  

"We are going to a different size box compared to what we had, so before this we had a full-length box and we lost close to 9000, now we're going a three-quarter box and to meet the same capacity we're going to need 12,000 of them," he says.

A team of box building helpers has already assembled 1200 new boxes that will be used for spring honey flows and bee population expansion, but all 12,000 boxes will need to be made by the end of November for the summer honey flow period.

Natural New Zealand Honey is hoping to produce between 100 and 150 tonnes this coming season. Most of it will be exported to Europe, North and South America and Asia.