Beekeeping is fast becoming a very popular hobby and profession in New Zealand, and we often get questions from people asking about what is involved. So, we caught up with Egmont Honey Co-Founder and Operations Director Toby Annabell to get his thoughts.
So Toby, tell us how it started for you & bees?
About 10 years ago my son James worked for a NZ Manuka Honey company in Hong Kong, establishing an Asian market for them. That’s when the family first became interested in Honey. He bought me a beehive off TradeMe for a Christmas present one year (not a good idea, and not recommended), and told me to buy a bee-suit to go with it. We slowly figured out what we were doing, and expanded numbers. Egmont Honey now owns 4,000 hives and employees a team of full-time beekeepers
What do you enjoy most about the job?
I’ve always been involved in agriculture. We’re a farming family, and before Egmont Honey I owned a spraying company. So, I’ve always enjoyed spending time outside. Beekeeping is very special though, for the summer months we get to spend our time in some of the most picturesque parts of the country. It also gives me a chance to work with a large number of landowners and contractors in the local community. Bees are also very interesting creatures, and creating great honey is a complex process. The entire team is constantly learning and no two days are the same.
What is your advice for people wanting to get into beekeeping?
Don’t underestimate the amount of work involved. We always recommend that people join their local Bee Club, to learn the fundamentals. In particular it’s vital that people are able to diagnose bee diseases. Also, be very mindful of your neighbours if their properties are close by. Bees don’t have any discretion as to where they ‘do their business’, and it stains washing and cars!
Do you see any potential threats towards the NZ beekeeping industry?
Like many primary industries, one of the biggest threats to NZ beekeeping is biosecurity. American Foul-brood Disease is our number one threat and can very quickly decimate hives. Our friends in Australia are also fighting an ongoing battle with Hive Beetle. It is for these reasons that it is highlight illegal to import honey into New Zealand. We need everyone to be vigilant, the success of our industry is dependent on our great bee health and reputation as exporters of high-quality honey.
Any final thoughts?
We’re currently on the lookout for wintering sights for our hives, so if anyone wants to get any idea of what it’s like live with bees on their land, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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As our list of international export & domestic clients steadily grows, for both private label and Egmont Honey branded product, it is important as ever that we secure a consistent supply of high-quality honey.
As well as working with beekeepers all over New Zealand, we operate 4,000 beehives, predominantly scattered around rural South Taranaki. My father Toby manages our team of beekeepers, who are responsible for tending to the hives year-round. After a couple of challenging Manuka seasons, we are seeing some good results from the hives that are now coming back in from the Manuka stands.
I often get asked what makes a good Manuka Honey season, and unfortunately it is not a straightforward answer. It is a very complex process, with many factors at play that can make or break a good year. But the following is a rough guide on what is involved:
It would seem that over the past 3 to 4 months, the majority of the elements above have worked in our flavour, and we are very much looking forward to test results once the honey is extracted and processed. We are also very privileged to work in this stunning part of the country and call it our office for 4 months of the year.
We understand that other regions have not performed so well this season with poor weather at key flowering times. Our thoughts go out to these bee keepers as we have been there over the last two seasons and feel your pain.
James Annabell, CEO and Founder Egmont Honey