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Beekeepers say there's not enough food for all hives as more and more are created

Beekeepers are worried our growing honey industry is out of control and that bees are starving from over-population.

Rapid growth, especially in the manuka honey industry, has seen the number of hives soar in the last ten years, prompting the industry to come up with a plan.

After 50 years of beekeeping, John Berry says his bees are in a battle for survival.

"I go past one of my sites and there are 180 hives dumped across the fence from them," Mr Berry said.

"On a farm if you are running a thousand cattle and someone comes in and puts 10,000 cows on the same grass, do you get 10,000 times as much milk? I don't think so."

In 2008 there was about 300,000 bee hives in New Zealand, but rapid growth has seen that number grow to almost 900,000.

Stephen Lee of Manuka Farming NZ says New Zealand has a lot of land where manuka could be planted.

"One of the issues we do have is a real mismatch is food supply for the bees with the demand for the food by the bees," he said.

"Many parts of New Zealand are ripe for that because that land that could grow manuka is actually returning nothing."

Apiculture New Zealand research shows our bees are among the healthiest in the world, with colony loss of less than 10 per cent compared with 15-30 per cent overseas.

Apiculture NZ is now proposing a commodity levy for commercial beekeepers, which they believe will help keep the industry sustainable.

Beekeepers will vote on the levy this month.

The industry has grown quickly - especially in the production of manuka honey. Source: 1 NEWS