The origins of beekeeping in New Zealand can be traced back to 1839 at the Mangungu mission station in Hokianga Harbour. Honey bees were transported from England and were able to rapidly establish in the ideal conditions of the Northland bush.
The European bees were initially introduced to pollinate the pasture crops of clover. Although New Zealand has almost 30 species of native bee, most of these species pollinate native plants, but do not produce enough honey to be viable for commercial beekeeping.
By the 1860s, the European bees introduced in 1839 were established well enough for wild hives to be plentiful, and local Maori people, became the first commercial beekeepers being able to harvest considerable crops.
Since this time, beekeeping in New Zealand has thrived in post-war periods on the return of servicemen. Many were trained as apiarists, the industry evolved quickly as transportation advanced. This meant that hives could be easily transported to a wider range of sites.
When the ‘Langstroth’ style hive was introduced, commercial beekeeping continued to grow into a viable commercial industry. This style of hive consists of a simple timber box, with an open top and bottom. Frames slot in from above, and the boxes are stacked on top of a wooden base. This allows beekeepers to organize the hives for the breeding of bees or the production of honey as required.
Although the honey industry has developed considerably since its humble beginnings, the basic principles are the same: well cared for hives, in the right environment, will produce good crops of high-quality honey.