Damaged beehives, bee losses, and difficulty in accessing isolated hives are just some of the challenges Upper South Island beekeepers have faced since the earthquake hit last week.

“Like other primary producers, it’s been a hugely challenging time as local beekeepers deal with the fall-out from the earthquake, and our thoughts go out to all those affected,” says John Hartnell, Canterbury-based board member of Apiculture New Zealand.

“Not only are local beekeepers having to deal with loss of honey bee life, a number of them are unable to check their hives as the slips and land instability have meant no immediate access to the land. For some, that means the only way in, is via helicopter.”

While the industry will work through the full impact of the situation, the scale is significant given the activity in the region. There are 1500 beekeepers in the Blenheim and Canterbury regions with over 124,000 hives in total. The economic value of both the pollination potential and honey and bee products for these regions is estimated by industry to be just over $155 million per annum.

The hives not only provide honey and bee products, but honey bees also play a critical role in pollinating pastoral clover for nitrogen regeneration, specialised small seed crops, berry, stone fruit and pip fruit orchards.

“Our industry works hand in hand with the rural and horticulture sector and as we get to grips with the extent of the damage and impacts, both short and long-term, we will need to continue to support each other through this difficult time,” says Mr Hartnell.

Ms Karin Kos, Chief Executive of Apiculture New Zealand says that it had been encouraging to see offers of help come in from its members across New Zealand, as well as wider industry partners and the Government.

“Apiculture New Zealand, as the peak body supporting New Zealand beekeepers and the wider honey products industry, will be working closely with Government and the wider industry to ensure there is ongoing support for our members affected by the quake,” says Karin Kos.

This includes assistance through the Government’s rural support package announced by the Minister for Primary Industries last week, with the 0800 779 997 Government Helpline available to assist people needing financial and other support.