SUSTAINABILITY – HARMONY PLAN

KAITIAKI (GUARDIANS) FOR BEES SINCE 1974

With global bee populations in decline from climate change, pesticides, human development, diseases, and more, we must do everything that we can to help save bees.

OUR COMMITMENTS

  • As beekeepers ourselves since 1974, we take our role as Kaitiaki (guardians) of bees seriously. Beyond producing powerful wellness products like UMFᵀᴹ Mānuka Honey and Propolis, we recognise the critical importance bees play in pollinating 75% of our global food supply and supporting the biodiversity of our ecosystems.
  • Bees are essential to the survival and flourishing of our natural ecosystems, but sadly, global bee populations are in decline from climate change, pesticides, human development, diseases, and more. In many urban areas globally, an alarming number of hives are exterminated in swarming seasons. On the flip side of this trend, it’s getting increasingly more difficult for a swarm to survive in the wild due to varroa mite and pesticides. At Comvita, we are driven to help where we can, and we are scaling up our environmental activations.  
  • We see our role as global leaders and educators in bee advocacy and welfare. Across the world, we aim to save over 10 million bees each year through advocacy and establishing enduring partnerships to rescue and rehome bees.
6.8 MILLION  Bees Saved so far in 2022 We’re aiming for 10 million each year

HOW ARE WE TRACKING?

  • We are well on track to exceed our target of saving 10 million bees this year.
  • We are supporting our eight independent beekeepers in the United States to rescue bees. Since May 2022 we have rescued more than 135 beehives; our goal is to rescue 200 this year.
  • We have planted millions of trees, providing a habitat for bees and other fauna to thrive.
  • We have commenced the design of our own Bee Welfare Code.
  • We have achieved Glyphosate Free standards for all our US and EU products.
  • Comvita's hive mortality rate is considerably lower than New Zealand's industry standard (8.4% vs 13.6%) as reported in the 2021 Colony Loss Survey.
  • We have partnered with Wasp Wipeout and deployed over 1,100 wasp traps in the Hawkes Bay Region, to protect bee populations.
  • We have launched an interactive bee welfare and education programme delivered at our New Zealand, Auckland Wellness Lab. Click here to learn more.

BEE RESCUE

By partnering with other like-minded and experienced beekeepers, we aim to safely relocate hives that have found their way into unwelcome areas and rescue bees in need.

We have doubled our commitment to saving bees. Where last year we saved 5 million bees, this year we are aiming to save 10 million. In the US, we have partnered with eight beekeepers and since May '22, have rescued over 135 hives. We know a hive has between 50,000-60,000 bees - so that's over 6.75million bees so far!

Closer to home, here in Aotearoa, we've formed two key partnerships with Bee's Up Top, and For The Love of Bees. Both organisations are helping us rescue bees and educate our communities and future generations on the importance of bees within our ecosystems.

Bee rescue with hive
Hilary Kearney, Bee Educator & Hive Rescuer, San Diego, US
Bees in the country side

BEE THRIVING ENVIRONMENTS

Our mānuka forests now house millions of native trees providing the perfect environment for our honeybees to forage and thrive, and create the most powerful mānuka honey possible.

As well as mānuka, we recognise the importance of ensuring our bees have wide-reaching nectar sources and extensive places to thrive. Companion planting, therefore, forms a key part of how we establish our mānuka forests. This provides a variety of nectar and pollen sources for the bees, gives them shelter and stabilises the land.

Working alongside Trees for Bees, we continue to research the best nectar sources (type and quantity) for companion planting in our mānuka forests.

Each year we aim to plant more natives and companion trees to compliment our mānuka. We have more to do as we explore ways to ensure our natives survive the elements and pests who find our natives tasty.

OUR FUTURE FOCUS - PROTECTING BEE POPULATIONS

Our Bee Welfare Code

Bee Welfare is a vital issue for us all globally, given the importance of their role in the ecosystem and food production. It is sobering to read the results from this year's Biosecurity NZ (part of MPI) annual Colony Loss Survey, where bee colony deaths are reported to have increased for a seventh consecutive year in New Zealand.

The New Zealand industry mortality rates for bees were at 13.6% for 2021 (in some parts of the world this is nearly 50%). In contrast, we are tracking considerably fewer losses (8.4%) over the same period, reflecting once again the quality and know-how of our world-class team of beekeepers.

We believe beekeeping is inherently good and sustainable. We see our relationships with bees as a partnership rather than exploitation; our honeybees depend on us.

Built on our own ethical beekeeping standards, we lead to inspire others through the design of a Bee Welfare Code, aligned to the internationally recognised 'five freedoms of animal welfare'.

Collaborating with industry partners, Apiculture NZ, DOC and other CRIs, we seek to fill gaps in research and keep up with new science to improve bee welfare, hive placement and proximity to avoid overcrowding. This will ensure healthier bee populations.

Additonally we are working with partners in the following areas:

Varroa distructor

Industry knowledge suggests that the leading cause of colony loss is due to varroa mite numbers building up in hives. So, we are fighting back against Varroa Destructor! Varroa destructor is a parasitic mite that infests honeybee colonies, leading to disease in the hive. Our comprehensive varroa management programme and ongoing research in collaboration with Plant and Food Research aims to limit the impact of this mite on our bee colonies.

In 2022, we studied the safety and effectiveness of a range of organic treatment options across 120 hives. Findings from this study will be used to inform future research projects and improve our varroa management programme and help us reduce resistance to traditional methods.

Wasp Wipeout

Wasps - a predator of our bees and native wildlife, cause a devasting impact on our biodiversity by exploiting food sources within our forests.

This year we became a key sponsor for the roll-out of the Wasp Wipeout Project in the Hawkes Bay Region, New Zealand. Wasp Wipeout is a community-led conservation project aimed at significantly reducing wasp populations in New Zealand. Whilst our apiary teams routinely establish wasp bait stations around our hives to protect and preserve bee welfare, this project broadens our reach.

We funded the deployment of over 1,100 trap/bait stations (we estimate around 1,708 hectares), across 12 recreational conservation areas in Hawkes Bay - several properties border where we place our hives, supporting a safe environment for our bees, communities and helping bee populations.

In 2022 we will support Wasp Wipeout roll-out into other parts of the North Island, New Zealand.  

Doc pest control
Glyphosate Free

Glyphosate has become a hot topic in food quality in recent years, but it's been around since the 1970s. Today, many countries use it as a weed killer and crop desiccant. It's a chemical that we certainly don't think belongs in food, including honey.

Bees - who pollinate crops in addition to flowering plants and trees - are also subject to consuming glyphosate when foraging for nectar. So, not only is this chemical introduced to the environment, but it also affects bees and other insects, animals, and humans.

While the FAO and WHO recently cited that glyphosate is "unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through the diet," we take a firm stance that glyphosate should not be in foods.

We take extra precaution by placing our hives in locations far from agricultural farms that may pose a potential risk to minimise the chance that our bees may have unintended exposure to glyphosate.

To double check our honey isn't at risk for this contaminant, we test for the presence of glyphosate in every single batch of honey - exceeding strict standards set by the EU standard, which is the most stringent among global countries.

We are proud that our products sold in the US and EU are certified Glyphosate Residue Free, and our bees in producing this honey have done so in the most natural environment possible.

Click here to learn more about our conservation efforts

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