Honey bee colonies have increased by three times within the past 20 years. However beekeepers now identify overstocking as the biggest challenge facing the New Zealand beekeeping industry.
More honey bee colonies can potentially lead to increased competition for nectar and pollen resources. Meanwhile more beehives at higher densities contributes to increased movement of honey bees between colonies. These factors are believed to be contributing to increasing rates of disease, colony loss and decreasing honey bee colony productivity.
Ongoing work by Plant & Food Research scientists is looking at ways to mitigating these challenges in order to advance our understanding of honey bee behaviour and improve commercial performance.
A randomised controlled trial has been established to track robbing and drift interventions in a selected apiary. Scientists James P. Sainsbury, Ashley N. Mortensen, Lara Mills and Grant Fale aim to quantify the effects of robbing and drift management on honey production, varroa numbers and foraging activity. The plan is to track the colonies for a year and provide regular updates of findings to beekeepers at field days and through industry publications.
See here for more on this study: Finding a way home: honey bee drift, robbing and productivity