New Zealand’s sizeable and growing population of bee lovers will honour the humble, hardworking bee this World Bee Day on Thursday 20 May.

World Bee Day was established by the United Nations to raise awareness of the critical importance of bees, and other pollinators to the health of our planet and its people.  “The world over people are becoming more aware of the value of bees and the vital role they play in keeping us fed and our environment thriving.  This is particularly true in New Zealand.” says Apiculture New Zealand chief executive Karin Kos.

The most recent figures show that New Zealand has 10,340 registered beekeepers in New Zealand.  In comparison, figures for the UK show the number of beekeepers there is close to 38,000, with a population 14 times that of New Zealand’s.

Of the registered beekeepers in New Zealand, 75% are considered hobbyist beekeepers operating 10 hives or less.  This group of beekeepers has grown significantly over the past five years, up 45%, while the number of registered beekeepers with 11 to 50 hives has increased by 50%.

Ms Kos says this growth has been driven by a variety of factors.  “For many people, it comes from a desire to grow their own food, and a heightened interest in health and well-being prompted by Covid-19.  For others it’s about doing something good for the environment, and then many others are just fascinated by bees and want to learn more about them.”

“While beekeeping is a wonderful hobby, it is a lot more complex than putting a hive in your garden and letting the bees go for it.  You need to know how to identify and treat for disease and pests.  Bees can travel up to 5km so if you don’t look after your bees’ properly, they can quickly spread problems to other hives.  We really encourage people interested in beekeeping to join a local beekeeping club to find out what’s involved before they invest in a hive,” she says.

For those bee lovers wanting to support New Zealand’s bee populations, without becoming a beekeeper, there are many other options.  “The best thing that people can do to help bees is grow bee-friendly plants.  Some of the best plants for bees are gardeners’ favourites like lavender, rosemary, basil as well as many pip fruit trees, citrus trees and natives like harakeke, rātā and rewarewa.”