Building a better future for bees is the focus of this year’s World Bee Day on Friday 20 May.

“Not only does the honey bee provide us with a great source of natural food, but it also plays a critical role as a commercial pollinator in our agriculture and horticulture sectors,” says Karin Kos, Chief Executive of Apiculture New Zealand.

While New Zealand’s honey bees have not suffered the colony losses of other countries, our bees still rely on human intervention to stay protected from threats such as the varroa mite, American Foul Brood (AFB) and wasp invasion.

New Zealand has a flourishing population of honey bees cared for by 10,325 registered beekeepers with a total of 760,751 hives across the country. In the last financial year, commercial beekeepers exported 20,500 tonnes of honey, worth $455.5million.

Of the registered beekeepers in New Zealand, 79% are considered hobbyist beekeepers operating 10 hives or less.

“Bees are absolutely fascinating, and beekeeping is a great hobby which can provide hours of interest, but like any hobby if you are unprepared when you start out, it can get difficult,” says Paul Martin, ApiNZ Non-Commercial Board member.

Paul Martin says joining your local beekeeping club is a great way of learning to be a good beekeeper from others in your community. “You never stop learning, and there are always new ideas and theories to consider from fellow beekeepers.”

For those bee lovers wanting to support New Zealand’s bee populations, without becoming a beekeeper, Ms Kos says the best thing that people can do is grow bee-friendly plants. Bee favourites include natives like harakeke, rātā and rewarewa, as well as popular garden plants such as lavender, rosemary, basil and citrus trees.