There are seven species of honey bee in the world, but the most common one, domesticated for honey production and crop pollination, is the European honey bee (Apis mellifera).
The species, which may have originated in Africa or Asia and found the world over except for Antartica , this is the most common bee here in New Zealand and is responsible for most agricultural and horticultural pollination globally.
Honey bees have been kept in New Zealand for more than 150 years and in that time, beekeeping has evolved into a progressive industry.
New Zealand is now recognised as one of the world’s most advanced beekeeping countries and is a leader in several important fields.
Mary Bumby, the sister of a Methodist missionary, is considered the first person to introduce honey bees to New Zealand. She brought two hives ashore when she landed at the Mangungu Mission Station at Hokianga in March 1839.
The commercial production of honey in New Zealand began during the late 1870s, following the introduction of the Langstroth hive, the boxed-framed beehive model still used today.
There are three types of honey bees that live in a beehive: a queen bee, worker bees and drones
The worker bees and the queen are the female bees, but only the queen can lay eggs, which will be nurtured and develop into young bees.
The drones are the male bees. Their only job is to mate with the queen, and the queen’s job is to lay eggs. In summer, the queen bee can lay as many as 1,500 eggs every day. The worker bees have lots of jobs, including finding pollen from flowers, collecting nectar and water, building new honeycomb (which holds the honey and pollen), taking care of larvae (developing young bees), and grooming and feeding the queen. The worker bees are the only bees which sting, and they will only do so if they feel threatened. In an average beehive during the summer months, you can expect to find one queen bee and about 250 drones, 60,000 worker bees, 7,000 eggs, 10,000 larvae and 20,000 pupae