This image is taken from the heart of our Manuka cropping region, showing a mix of Manuka and native bush in the foreground, and Mt. Taranaki in that background, with a fresh covering of snow.
I just returned from a 4-week trip to New Zealand where we are preparing for the upcoming honey season in the Taranaki region. We had a very wet and eventful winter, with a record rainstorm in June which caused flooding and small landslides in the hilly back-country where the Manuka trees grow. However, spring has been drier with a good mix of sunny days, which are perfect conditions for the bees to begin their annual cycle.
At this time of the year, as the weather warms and various plants begin to flower, the queen starts to significantly increase her egg-laying to create more worker bees. Our beekeepers are especially busy now, checking on all of the hives to see how well they did over the winter months. We take particularly good care of our hives during this time to minimize the number of swarms. Swarming is a natural process that happens when food is abundant and a colony splits. This leaves behind a newly created queen while the old queen and a majority of the worker bees seek a new home in the surrounding area. We manage this natural tendency by creating ‘splits’ from stronger hives to balance any losses that may have been suffered by a weaker hive during the winter.
I spent a lot of time in and around our Manuka cropping sites on this visit. While the Manuka trees won’t start flowering until late December, there is a lot of flowering activity starting to come on in the surrounding native forest, or as New Zealanders call it, “the native”. Two native flowering trees that are especially attractive as nectar sources are the Rewarewa and the Kamahi.
Many of our hives that are in good proximity to the native will do especially well building up on these beautiful flowers prior to the Manuka starting to flower.
Due to the El Nino pattern happening this year in the Pacific Ocean, the longer-range weather forecast is calling for a hot dry summer. NOAA (The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) is predicting that this year's El Nino may be the strongest since a record year back in 1997-98, setting us up for a good long Manuka harvest in Taranaki. Bees & Trees is diligently at work to position our hives in the best locations and conditions during January – early March. We will have more news as the season progresses so check back in with us on our FaceBook page and here on our website.