Old Road Honey Company

they invested

Several years ago Alan and Robert invested in hives when they needed bees for onion seed pollination. They were fascinated by the productivity of the bees and after learning some grass roots facts decided to dip their steel-capped boots into the honey business.

Beekeeper, Simon Undrill, of Wairau Plains Honey Company is key to the success of the Garlico Marlborough spin-off business which goes by the name of the Old Road Honey Company.  Once the bees have done their work in the onion fields their hives are transported to sites around Marlborough and the by-product is pasture-based ‘honey’ distributed under the Old Road Honey Company name. Honey purchases can be made from the Garlico shop on Old Renwick Road or online.  

Simon works alongside the Old Road Honey Company, overseeing the well-being of the bees year-round. Extraction and processing of the raw honey also occurs in the top of the south.  

In Simon's words, "Honeybees are phenomenal creatures.  Their short life begins in the nursery, moving to house-keeping, making wax and tending larvae then progressing to foraging for about 20 days until the wee bee literally falls out of the sky at end of life. Throughout their foraging period each bee produces about a teaspoon of honey – that’s their life achievement".  

A Bee in Marlborough

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. It is the job of the queen to lay eggs which hatch as pupae and develop into young bees, with the help of the worker bees.
  • The drones are the male bees. Their only job is to mate with the queen. In summer, the queen bee can lay as many as 1,500 eggs every day.
  • The worker bees work hard! They find pollen from flowers, collecting nectar and water, build new honeycomb (which holds the honey and pollen), take care of larvae (developing young bees), and care for and feed the queen.
  • The worker bees are the only bees which sting, and only sting when they feel threatened.
  • Hives have guard bees and nurse bees. Guard bees make sure only honey bees that belong to the colony can enter the hive. The nurse bees feed, clean, and make food for the larvae, queen and drones.
  • The hard working worker bees only live about four to eight weeks. Drones can live up to four months and the queen bee can live for two to three years or even longer.
  • From egg to adult bee takes 16 days for a queen, 21 days for a worker and 24 days for a drone. Queen bees are bred by specialist apiaries and distributed throughout NZ in cells, ready to introduced to hives.
  • In a typical beehive in Marlborough during summer, you should find one queen bee and about 250 drones, 60,000 worker bees, 7,000 eggs, 10,000 larvae and 20,000 pupae

Around August in Marlborough honey bees kick into gear. Once bees are on to a nectar flow the hive will work that flow with the bees finding the easiest food source in their area.   Bees need consistently fine weather, with good temperatures and some moisture in the air.  If the weather is inconsistent with hot days interspersed with cold days, the bees will only work collecting nectar on the hot days then sit inside the hive in the cold days eating the stores they have brought in.

During the active season the colony life expands with the Queen laying eggs until after Christmas.  

Hives winter down around May and winter bee numbers reduce. The bee’s main roles through winter are to keep the hive interior clean while eating the food that the beekeeper provides them.  

Marlborough's generally warmer winters mean the Queen can often keep laying eggs, whereas in colder areas in New Zealand the Queen bee has what is called a brood break with the winter surviving bees working inside the hive until the Queen starts laying again.  

The natural benefits of Honey

Helps treat coughs and colds
It tastes fantastic
Natural sweetner
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