New Zealand’s honey bee population is growing rapidly despite recent reports of its decline, says Apiculture New Zealand.

The industry peak body was responding to comments from Lincoln University that give the impression that honey bees are under threat in New Zealand.

The university said New Zealand agriculture stands to lose between $295 and $728 million each year if our local honeybee population continues its ‘current decline’.

“I’m pleased to say that hive numbers are growing rapidly,” said ApiNZ chief executive, Daniel Paul.

“We are nearing 700,000 hives, up from 300,000 15 years ago.  Hive numbers grew by nearly 70,000 in the 2014-2015 year alone.

“There are close to 7,000 beekeepers in New Zealand and that number continues to grow each year as well.”

The honey bee does face challenges from the varroa mite and other endemic viruses and bacteria, but beekeepers have been managing these successfully for many years.  Research is ongoing internationally into how to address the problem of resistance to the treatments for varroa.

“We are always vigilant and concerned about a future biosecurity breach and the impact that new pests and diseases would have on the industry, but I think it’s misleading to suggest that honey bees in New Zealand are under some kind of near-term threat as Lincoln seems to be suggesting.

“That sends entirely the wrong message to our agriculture and horticulture partners who rely on bees for crop pollination.”

Mr Paul said a recent bee loss survey conducted nationwide showed that annual hive losses in New Zealand are only around 10 percent compared with 17 percent and higher in other countries.

New Zealand’s bee population contribute about $5 billion to our economy annually and they support about one third of everything we eat. New Zealand’s mānuka honey is some of the highest valued honey in the world.