Friday, 06 February 2009 08:38

The Apiculture project is a collaborative project between NZaid and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC).


These pages are a short presentation of the project based on the final report, written by James Driscoll (PO Box 9098,Hamilton, New Zealand, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ), and they will be completed as soon as the publication of the report is endorsed.


European missionaries probably first introduced honey bees into the Pacific in the mid 19th century. Early attempts to establish national apiculture industries were largely unsuccessful until the 1970’s when projects were initiated in Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Fiji.

These projects demonstrated that commercial honey production was a viable enterprise with the capacity to supply domestic markets and generate export earnings. The NZ funded apiculture development programme in the Solomon Islands has shown that apiculture is an appropriate activity for the rural dwelling Pacific Islander.

Countries presently known to be producing honey for market are: Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Niue, Cook Islands (Raratonga, Mangaia, Atiu), Fiji Islands, Tuvalu, Pitcairn Island, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Kiribati, Palau and French Polynesia. These are all developing beekeeping industries, but it should be noted that there are great variations in the scale of these industries. Some of these countries beekeeping industries might not grow beyond infancy and a few have even begun to diminish, e.g., Tonga.

In addition to the export of honey, individual producers within countries have attempted to establish markets for live bees, queens and nucleus colonies. Limited success has served to confirm the need for trained government staff with established honey bee disease surveillance and monitoring programmes capable of providing the certification required by Exporters and Trade Partners.

Therefore the following constraints need to be addressed in the regional strategy:

  • Utilisation of export opportunities for bees and bee products
  • Quality assurance for bees and bee products
  • Understanding of market requirements and accessibility for bees and bee products
  • Quality control and processing skills for bee products
  • Awareness of the costs of producing and marketing of bee products
  • Legislation to ensure zoo-sanitary certification and equivalence for bees and bee products
  • Potential Products and markets for the Pacific Islands

There are many products that have the potential to be produced within the Pacific Islands including some of the above:

  • Retail packaged honey – export and domestic markets
  • Crude propolis
  • Processed propolis – drinks, candies, tincture etc
  • Crude honey
  • Beeswax – candles, sheets of wax, varnishes etc
  • Beauty range – soap, creams
  • Medicinal – honey, creams (containing honey, propolis and other island ingredients)
  • Queen bees and packages
  • Bee equipment

The types of markets available for Pacific apicultural products are:

  • International bulk and retail packaged export
  • Domestic bulk and retail packaged product
  • Tourism/religious niche market
  • International and domestic organic market
  • Health/medicinal market/alternative medicines
  • Beauty industry
  • By-product sector
  • Manufacturing industries

Advantages of Beekeeping

Beekeeping is much suited to the environment of the Pacific Islands although it is still in the growing and developmental stage. It fits well providing diversification in the agricultural production base, supplementation in food production, expansion of income generation opportunity and the possibility of employment, and the promotion of private sector development.

Most honeybee products can be consumed as food, dietary supplements or used as medicine. These products are in most cases shelf stable and can be kept for long periods provided they are of good quality and stored properly. This is an important issue in the Pacific where transport to a market is unpredictable.

The Pacific honey bee disease status is unique in that the Pacific has some of the healthiest bees in the world.

The advantages of beekeeping in the Pacific are:

  • Relatively low technology requirements,
  • Beekeeping basics are easy to master,
  • Low initial costs for set up,
  • Men, women, elderly and youth can participate,
  • Provides employment and self-esteem,
  • There is opportunity for quick return on investment,
  • Minimal land requirements,
  • Environmentally acceptable farming practice,
  • Promotion of greater viable food crop yield through bee pollination,
  • Most bee products have a long shelf life and are a valuable food source.
  • Disadvantages and threat associated with Beekeeping

People can develop allergies to stings in any population and in extreme cases the allergy can be fatal - though deaths are rare. Antihistamines can be taken to alleviate allergy symptoms.

Land ownership may be an issue. Even if the beekeeper owns some land only a limited number of hives can be maintained there before overstocking occurs or the bees become a nuisance. Landless people can operate beehives provided arrangements are made with landowners and these agreements may include free pollination, crop sharing, or rental fees. Beehives are also often subject to “theft”.

Bee diseases are a concern as many bee diseases are contagious (none affect humans) and can be spread by beekeepers interchanging equipment or bees robbing infected hives. Some diseases and pests can be controlled by drugs or chemicals but these are expensive and can leave residues in bee products which may affect product sales. If serious diseases become established “honey harvesters” cannot survive. Only experienced beekeepers who manage hives properly will remain economic. The best defence for the Pacific against bee disease is to have a consequential quarantine system that controls the importation of bees and bee products, an education or extension facility and a disease inspection system.

In some countries bees suffer predation from wasps, birds, badgers, bears and skunks. In the Pacific damage from toads requires the hives to be built on stands up to 500 mm high. Cyclones can knock over hives and damage the bees’ nectar sources and honey crops may be affected up to one year after a cyclone. Ants, hornets and termites and wax moths are the main problem. Rotting of hive parts, especially if made from imported softwoods, shortens the economic life of the woodware. Local hardwoods may be more resistant but can also double the weight of an empty hive box.

Transport is always a concern in the Pacific and as beehives, honey and wax weigh a lot, access to effective transport is required if development beyond subsistence level is the focus. Freight is expensive and may mean honey cannot be retailed economically in some island groups.

New wealth may be an issue as beekeeping can often return very good cash incomes which may lead to farmers extending themselves in other areas, e.g., obtaining loans for further capital purchases.

People can also loose interest in beekeeping and there is no bigger nuisance than neglected beehives close to villages or urban areas. This type of issue generates problems for good beekeepers that often find themselves faced with public relation battles