By Linda Clarke
Life as a beekeeper is not for the faint-hearted.
It’s hard physical work and there are bee stings, says Midlands Bees operational manager Matt McCully.
The Ashburton agri-business runs 6500 hives, each with about 70,000 bees that pollinate crops like carrots and clover. The bees also make honey and Midlands staff are busy extracting the liquid gold, most of which will be exported to honey-lovers around the world.
Most of Midlands hives are between the Rangitata and Rakaia Rivers, with a small number in Selwyn. The hives are managed by 12 beekeepers, including young people who have just joined the industry.
“It is a very physical job, where you are working outdoors in the elements and you do have to be able to handle a lot of bee stings,” Matt said.
Around 3500 hives are positioned to pollinate hybrid carrot crops, with the rest going to canola, brassica, radish, chicory, red and traditional white clover crops.
The process of extracting honey begins in December with brassica, canola and radish hives, and finishes as late as April, when the late season honey dew starts to come in off the Black Beech forest.
It is a big job and starts with the beekeepers bringing the bee boxes of frames filled with honey into the processing shed in the Ashburton Business Estate.
The honey is warmed slightly, the frames are taken out of the boxes and the wax capping cut off. The frame is spun in an extractor to remove the honey, which is then run through a machine that separates the honey from the wax.
The honey is stored for packaging and the wax refined into blocks for sale.