We caught up with Dave to learn more about the ways of bees and how Wai Mānuka sources their honey.
Tell us about Mackenzie Apiaries
Mackenzie Apiaries is a small boutique honey producer, specialising in mānuka and other native bush honeys. I work alongside Kilarny Mitchell, nicknamed ‘The Viking’. He is 6ft 6 and has a glorious ginger beard. We take the time to get hands on with our hives, caring for each one. Sustainability is a natural part of everything we do, from how we manage the hives through to harvesting and extracting the honey. I have been great mates with Wayne, Lance and Joe for many years now, and have enjoyed seeing their journey with Wai Mānuka. They have purchased some of our locally harvested mānuka honey. I appreciate their philosophy of working with locals where possible and look forward to maintaining our relationship.
How did you get started in beekeeping?
In a previous life, I was a primary school teacher, which is where I met Wayne. One of the boys in my class, whose father was also my rugby coach at the time, was a beekeeper. I ended up helping him out from time to time, and he gave me a couple of hives to say thanks. Two hives grew into four, four grew to eight, and so on, – now we have around 500 hives. I guess you can say I caught the buzz and didn’t look back! I have always wanted to own my own business, and being outside in nature is an added bonus.
What’s surprised you about working with bees?
Bees are incredible creatures, they care for each other in ways I never expected. Each bee has a different role to play in the hive; all worker bees are female, the male bees called drones have only one purpose, reproduction. The role of a worker bee changes over its lifetime, ranging from; cleaning the hive and building wax, being a nurse bee (looking after young bees and the queen), and also a guard bee who protects the beehive from wasps and other intruders. One of its last jobs is foraging (collecting honey and pollen). It is amazing how there are tens of thousands of bees in a hive and yet essentially they work as a single entity. Sick bees will even die outside the hive rather than bring disease inside. For me the health of the bees always comes first. We make sure our hives have a strong queen, and maintain sufficient honey stores as well as managing pests such as the varroa mite.
Tell us more about beekeeping
Beekeeping is all about being in sync with the seasons, we follow nature’s timing, taking our lead from the bees themselves. In springtime we work hard to prevent swarming, which is when bee colonies reproduce and develop new hives. It is also when our bees are at their most vulnerable. We aim to keep them in sunny sheltered sites and Varro free. From early December we move our hives into mānuka when it begins to flower. But before we do this, we harvest any honey they have collected previously, ensuring the mānuka honey is as pure as possible. Some of our mānuka sites are in very remote places, for these we use a helicopter to fly in the hives. We take only our strongest hives onto mānuka.
What’s special about Mānuka Honey?
Mānuka Honey is one of those gifts from nature that really make a difference. At home we use it on our wounds for healing, and to sweeten our coffee. My wife Heather and children Amelia and Ben, love to bake and prefer to use honey over sugar. It’s pretty incredible stuff, and we’re grateful to be able to share that little bit of kiwi magic with others.