About Wai-Ora Hone     

                                  History - Growing a family enterprise

Wai-Ora Apiaries was established in 1981 with the purchase of 12 hives by Warren Thompson and his parents Carl and Margaret. Warren had taken classes in beekeeping at school, but he decided to attend an additional course on beekeeping with his mother Margaret. After the initial purchase and with the knowledge gleaned from their beekeeping education, the Thompson family began setting hives in the North Canterbury district.

Working for themselves and witnessing the birth of entire hives made the hard work and long days worth it. The Thompsons strove to continue being in control of a totally wild and organic product. With the help of farmers and families allowing the Wai-Ora bees onto safe and organic land, the family continued creating a network of natural bee sanctuaries.  In these areas raw honey could be produced and harnessed in an environment conducive to the life and longevity of bees and people alike.

Despite an array of hurdles the family persevered and succeeded in creating a business founded on solid principles and careful attention to the wellbeing of themselves, their bees, and the world at large. Wai-Ora Apiaries always has and always will feed their bees the same high grade honey that is harvested to ensure the strength and vitality of their hives.  Similarly, all of the treatments Wai-Ora used and continues using today are natural and safe for bees. For example, Wai-Ora Apiaries uses a simple thyme wafer in hives, which they find to be a highly effective combatant against various ailments.

Nearly 35 years after its creation, Wai-Ora Apiaries now consists of 600 hives spread across the foothills of North Canterbury, on the South Island of New Zealand. Today, Margaret focuses on queen rearing while Warren and Carl continue to look after bees in a completely natural way. A new generation of beekeepers has also joined the Wai-Ora team with the added help of Elspeth, Warren’s wife, and their three daughters Esther, Priscilla, and Rosa.Together, this family of 7, along with occasional help from cousins Reuben and Shannon, run the entire Wai-Ora operation from hive to harvest. The same principles that Wai-Ora Apiaries was incepted with continue today. The entire family recognizes and embraces the idea that how you take care of your bees reflects the end product. Healthy bees produce healthy honey.

 

Our Practices

Spring

The honeybee season begins in September, just as the whole South Island of New Zealand comes to life after the cold winter months. First, we check all of our hives for common diseases and give the bees their first organic treatment of botanicals.  This treatment comes in the form of natural thyme oil, which is put onto a wafer and inserted into each hive. No harmful chemicals whatsoever are used.

The natural methods that we depend on strengthen the bees naturally and organically. We carefully select bees that are coping with our natural treatments and are evolving to become better housekeepers. This is a more time consuming method, but it is the only way to prevent diseases from building resistance and becoming stronger.  In this way we are ensuring a sustainable and long lasting future for bees and honey. Bees are becoming endangered, but through the methods used by Wai-Ora Apiaries we are ensuring that they will be on our planet Earth for millennia to come.

Queen rearing also begins at this time.  Although we never kill a queen bee unnecessarily, queens do have a limited lifespan and must be replaced every 2-3 years.  We take special care to ensure that all of the queens we raise are in optimal health and happiness. A young queen is better than an old queen because they produce more eggs, and in turn more bees.  A young queen invigorates a hive, allowing it to remain fresh and healthy.  Queen rearing and the reintroduction queens into hives is incredibly important to the health of hives, which is why we take such special care during this process.

Another necessary step in the beekeeping process is the creation of nuclei to prevent swarming.  To create a nucleus we remove a number of bees from a hive to alleviate pressure on the colony.  We then introduce these bees with a new queen into a new hive.

After ensuring the stability, vitality, and stress free conditions of all of our hives, we add a box on top of boxes that already have hives within them. Bees will begin storing excess honey in these additional boxes.

Lastly, we move the hives out of the hill country (wintering sites) and back into the bush and hills. This move brings the bees into higher foothills with a warmer climate. This climate is also more conducive to the creation of pure, wild honey as it is untouched land containing copious amounts of manuka and honeydew.

Summer

After adding a box and moving the bees onto ideal land, we leave the bees alone.  By allowing the bees to live and produce their honey naturally and without interference we are guaranteed truly wild, and natural honey. This also ensures that the bees are stress free and happily buzzing about.

During the summer months we pay careful attention to the season and weather.  Bees are entirely temperature and weather reliant and require stable flowering to create truly exceptional honey.  By focusing on the changing weather we are able to connect closer to nature and communicate with the bees through the organic changes in the microclimate.

As long as the weather remains fair and the temperature warm, bees can fill a box in as little as two weeks.  After a box is filled, we add another to ensure that bees always have plenty of room to create more wild honey.

Autumn

It is in the fall months that the harvest begins. We insert bee escapes between the top boxes and the bottom two brood boxes. A bee escape is a wooden board containing escape holes that allow the bees to leave top boxes, but not get back in. This is a stress free method of removing bees from boxes while ensuring that no bees are hurt or killed.

After all of the bees leave the top boxes, we remove the top boxes and bring them to the honey shed to begin the extraction process. The extraction process involves using a centrifuge to separate honey from wax and storing the honey in certified food-grade storage containers. All of these processes comply with organic standards. Through these heat free and chemical free methods all nutrients, protein, and medicinal qualities of our honey is retained.

The honey is then sent to an organically certified packer and finally shipped to customers. The honey you receive is 100% wild, organic, pure, and raw authentic New Zealand honey, straight from the source. Buying our honey is exactly like keeping bees yourself, without all the hard work and bee stings.

Winter

After the harvest we prepare our hives for the cold winter months.  We carefully observe each and every hive to make sure that our bees have enough honey to feed on to make it through the winter.  In this way we are able to avoid feeding our bees sugar.  They live off of the same high quality Wai-Ora honey that you enjoy at home.  This allows both you and bees to remain 100% happy and healthy.  As the snow melts and the temperature becomes warmer we prepare for a new Spring and another season of beekeeping.

 

Our Honey

All honey from Wai-Ora Apiaries in New Zealand is produced from hive to container through the hard work and passion of a family spanning 3 generations. For over 35 years, our honey has been produced locally and organically in the wild to ensure the superior quality and health of our products as well as the sustainability of our bees and the environment they live in.

As a local apiary and a family at home, we farm sustainably and biodynamically to create a harmonious connection between farmer, bee, and all forms of life. We believe that every detail of beekeeping is important and should be handled with careful attention, from introducing queens into hives to hand pouring honey into containers. We take care of our bees, and they take care of us.

Wai-Ora is a Maori word meaning ‘liquid health.’ Our wild honey is just that, a liquid substance that provides a multitude of nutritional and medicinal benefits to those who consume it. By ensuring that our honey is harvested heat and chemical free with little to no interference with our bees during the creation process, we are emulating nature’s genius and providing a totally raw, and organic product.


Our beehives

Since Wai-Ora’s inception more than 35 years ago, we have worked with nature by using organic, natural treatments, and only feeding our bees organic honey, nature’s perfect food for bees. This ensures the health and happiness of our bees and guarantees that 100% of the nutritional and medicinal properties of our honey is retained.

Eating Wai-Ora honey means that you are eating honey produced in the New Zealand wild and fully harvested and packaged by a family that believes in the health and vitality of each bee and every drop of honey. Receiving a jar of Wai-Ora honey is like keeping bees yourself while letting us handle all the hard work and bee stings.

Like the Maori people, we believe that everything we say, think, and do should be done with future generations in mind. Our ultimate goal is to continue creating a sprawling bee sanctuary that protects and maintains the lasting life and integrity of bees, the environment, and the people. In this way we hope to continue creating an honest, and healthy product that you can depend on and feel good about.

For more information regarding the importance of ensuring the life of bees organically and sustainably, check out Queen of the Sun: What are the bees telling us?, an internationally celebrated documentary in which Wai-Ora Apiaries is featured.