Nelson Floods: Not Good for Bees

Bees hate heavy rain, and right now most people in the Nelson Marlborough region will probably agree with them. The August deluge that lashed the Top of the South, caused severe flooding and slips, threatening homes and livelihoods. It’s been an extremely worrying time for us here at Mountain Valley Honey. Our bees are part of our family — it’s gut-wrenching to be cut off from our hives, unable to check if they are okay.

Many of our hives are located in remote places — that’s what makes our honey so special.  The downside is that these hideaway places can be difficult to access when bad weather strikes. But the recent weather has taken things to a whole new level. 

The main Nelson Marlborough road over the Wangamoas was completely cut off, as was the alternative route through the Wairau Valley, resulting in a seven hour drive to reach the nearest of our Marlborough beehives. Although the road teams have been working furiously, they admit it’s going to be a ‘mammoth task’ putting things right. 

Image credit: Stuff article Two bays in the Marlborough Sounds cut off as heavy rain damages roads

As Waka Kotahi NZTA says, “The scale of the damage to highways and local roads is enormous.” Unfortunately, even as main routes begin to open, at least partially, it looks as if we’ll be facing delays and road works for quite some time. 

Our first concern during the awful weather was to touch base with our landowners and partners in the Marlborough Sounds, checking on their wellbeing. People there are still coming to terms with what has occurred and the widespread damage to their land. Many properties have been affected by mudslides with significant damage to homes, roads, fences and equipment. The extent of the devastation has been a real shock and locals are still reeling. However the “can do” attitude of Kiwis shines through in these times and their drive to support one another is outstanding. 

Image credit: Marlborough District Council, Stuff article ‘It’s a widespread disaster’: Supply concerns as Marlborough communities cut off

Access to our hives is going to prove very difficult in some cases. We might even have to consider boating our team in and trekking up to the hives. Even though we are always really careful to place our hives in safe locations, avoiding exposed and flood-prone land, we can’t just assume that things are okay. This event has been so out of the blue. 

Thankfully, bees are sensible creatures and most should have survived the worst of the weather by staying tucked up warm and dry inside their hives. But an inundation of driving rain can cause real problems, especially if mudslides have caused the hives to shift. 

Bee hives are ‘climate controlled’ by the worker bees to protect the queen and food stores. Compensating for an influx of cold rain costs the bees extra energy, right at the time when their numbers are lowest. Not only that, bees struggle to forage for food in rainy weather. Our team will be pulling out all the stops to get to as many hives as we can. Our bees have never needed a visit from a friendly beekeeper more than they do right now. 

Spring is always a busy time for us, because we don’t like to disturb the hives over winter. At this time of the year our usual concerns are to check the colony has enough food to start growing, check for disease and ensure the queen bee looks healthy and happy. This Spring promises to be a whole lot more complicated than that, with the additional work of relocating and repairing hives. What we really need right now is sunshine — and lots of it.

Image credit: Stuff article Canvastown comes together to protect place of refuge – the local pub

In fact, our whole region is desperate for some consistent spells of fine weather so that progress can be made cleaning up the chaos left behind by the rains and mud. We really appreciate all the hard work that everyone is putting in to get things back to normal. Gaining access to our hives is crucial for us, but we know we’re not the only small business affected. 

Our hearts go out to everyone who is struggling to get their lives and properties back in order. 

Image credit: Olivia Johnston, Stuff article Two bays in the Marlborough Sounds cut off as heavy rain damages roads

Here’s hoping that we will have a beautifully settled Spring this year and that all the fun events can go ahead, including our wonderful Nelson markets. The signs for school fairs and festivals are up on the roadsides and the early blossoms are out — all we need now is some good weather. 

Wishing you all sunshine and hope in these difficult times. 

Kia kaha, Nelson Marlborough.

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