The Buzz Blog

Welcome to our blog 'The Buzz'.  Here we will keep you updated on what is happening in the world of bees and honey and anything else that we think you would be interested in.  If there is a topic you would like to hear about drop us an email and I'll see what we can do.


Breaking News.... We are Finalists in the NZ Artisan Awards!

Written by Stephanie on September 2nd, 2020.      0 comments

We've just heard the exciting news that we are finalists in the NZ Artisan Awards!  With well over 600 brands entered, the competition was tough. So much so, that a new category was opened up to cater for the huge number of honey brands that entered. 

The Inspire+ Artisan Awards have showcased the depth and breadth of New Zealand’s best and locally made produce something that resonates with New Zealand consumers in the new normal where we are all strongly identifying with buying local.

The finalists for this year have been chosen, after a lengthy judging process, that analysed the product’s degree of innovation, fit for purpose, visual appeal, taste, price point, and shelf-life. 
 
NZ Artisan Awards 2020-545
 

Yes Our Online Store Is Open During Lockdown

Written by Stephanie on March 29th, 2020.      0 comments

Beekeeping and Honey Processing Is Essential Business


Beekeepers are essential businesses for bee welfare and / or processing food.  So yes we can still send orders from our online store during the lockdown period.

Our industry, as part of the Agriculture sector, has been granted a dispensation to provide the essential ongoing care of our bees who play a critical role in our rural ecosystem for both horticulture and pasture feed, and furthermore as a food producer, enabling packers to continue processing honey.  There are strict protocols we must follow to continue our licence to operate. 

MPI has stated that all essential services must change the way that they operate to minimise the risk of spreading the virus. This means that in order to continue operating, all beekeeping businesses, no matter what size, will have to develop protocols to ensure the virus cannot be spread in your working environment, but also that staff are observing all safety guidelines when they are not at work.


How Will Sweetree Work During the Lockdown?


Luckily our business is based from home so is in self isolation with us, and in our bubble is only Martin, myself and our two teenage boys.  We are all healthy and put ourselves into isolation from Monday 23rd March to keep our family and business safer from the virus.  

When sending out orders we will be using clean disposable gloves and face masks.  There will be only one person handling your order until the courier picks it up from our property.  Because we can't guarantee the outside packaging after it's been through the courier processing we suggest you either wear gloves opening your order or wash your hands a soon as the package is open.

If anyone in our bubble is feeling unwell or has any mild symptoms (even just tickly throat) they will not be processing any orders or be anywhere near the Sweetree products.

You can be rest assured we will do our best to send you quality and safe products.  If you have any questions at all please don't hesitate to contact us.
 

Purchase safely from our Online Store


Martin-at-Ohui
 
 

Waikato Rower Fuelled by Sweetree Honey and Bee Pollen

Written by Stephanie on August 12th, 2019.      0 comments

We are very proud to be sponsoring Daniel Bridgwater, a young passionate Waikato rower, in his goal to compete for New Zealand and contest for gold in the 2020 Olympics. 

Sweetree honey and bee pollen are fuelling and keeping him healthy as he trains for the Olympic trials coming up.  We wish you the very best Daniel with the up and coming trials & regattas!

Daniel-Bridgwater-rowing-early-morning-full
Photo of Daniel on a very early morning row
 

Happy with Honey Harvest

Written by Stephanie on March 28th, 2019.      0 comments

Last weekend we completed our harvest of this seasons honey!  Thank goodness it was a lot better than last year and our bees had plenty of surplus honey for us to harvest.  We always make sure we leave plenty of honey for the bees to keep them going over winter and build up over spring.  Our bees made it through the winter very well and were healthy and strong going into this season, with the honey we left them at the end of last season.  It meant we didn't have much variety to sell but we don't think pumping them up with sugar syrup (like may beekeepers do) is good for their health.

It was a good year for Waikato honey so we will have new season Marokopa Spring, Four Brothers Reserve, Hakarimata, Kirikiriroa, and Horsham Downs honey available this year.   We still have some Ohui Manuka and Marokopa Summer from last season and we've already packed this seasons award-winning Marokopa Spring, Four Brothers Reserve will be available next week and Hakarimata the week after that.  We will then be working on packing the Kirikiriroa and Horsham Downs honeys.  
 

Check the online store for your favourite Sweetree honey!

 
Harvest-checking-frames
Martin checking through the honey frames at Horsham Downs before harvesting the honey
 

Sweetree Wins Gold!

Written by Stephanie on March 19th, 2019.      2 comments

2019-Gold-LabelWe entered our Marokopa Spring honey into the 'Outstanding NZ Food Producers Awards' and it's just won GOLD!

We were up against many other products in 'the earth' category such as; honey, spreads, condiments, loaves, crackers, and nuts.  Outstanding NZ Food Producer Award's organiser Kathie Bartley says “This was a great result for Sweetree, we had some awesome honey products this year.”  We're proud that Waikato honey is up there on top!  Waikato's pasture and bush, and of course our bees are pretty special!

The Outstanding NZ Food Producers awards celebrate Kiwis who harvest, grow and make food and drinks.  And judging was on these criteria:
  • PRODUCT: Quality, taste, consistency, visual appearance, innovation, packaging (if applicable), innovation (80%)
  • SUSTAINABILITY: Sustainable business practices in producing the product (10%)
  • BRAND STORY: The story of your brand, how you got here, where you’re going, what makes your product special and demonstrates your passion. (10%).

Check out the award-winning Marokopa Spring honey

We're sure you'll love Marokopa Spring honey as well!  Check out our feedback from customers:


"There is always honey in our house but it's usually the budget brand. After tasting Sweetree Marokopa Spring honey I can see why people pay the extra price. I was told that people eat it by the spoonful and I was thinking to myself that honey isn't that tasty that I would ever do that. Well, after seeing the yummy looking honey in the lovely labelled jar I had to try it and wow, it was yummo. I don't think I could go back to the budget brand now."
Caroline Rainham, Levin

"I received my order of honey today and I just wanted to thank you guys so much for the effort you put in.  The package was securely wrapped, it was fast delivery and I honestly couldn't be happier.  I was not expecting even half of the effort put in so thank you so much.  I just wanted to let you guys know that you are doing a great job and I will definitely be ordering from you guys again as well as recommending your business."
Nikita Rindel, Christchurch
 

Read about other awards we have won

Outstanding-Producers-Award
 

Vote for Us!

Written by Stephanie on February 19th, 2019.      0 comments

peoples-choice award producerKiwis are renowned for their passion for the country, its people and its produce. That’s why the Oustanding Producers Awards are asking Kiwis to help find New Zealand’s finest.  

We'd love it if you could vote for us in their People's Choice Award!  Just go to their website and enter 'Sweetree Honey' as your producer and your favourite farmers market (ours is Hamilton Farmers Market).  Thanks so much in advance, we really appreciate it!!

Everyone who votes in the Coast People’s Choice Awards goes into the draw to win a year’s subscription to NZ Life & Leisure and an Outstanding NZ Food Producer Awards hamper, featuring a selection of winning products from the Awards! 
 

VOTE HERE - Let's show everyone that Waikato makes great honey!!

 

Buzzy Time of Year!

Written by Stephanie on December 11th, 2018.      0 comments

This is one of our busiest times of the year, getting the hives all sorted for the new season ahead.  Making sure they are healthy and strong, moving them to where they need to be to collect that delicious honey and making sure they have plenty of supers (honey collecting boxes) to store the honey.  We've had to move a lot of hives this season to re-arrange apiary locations, which has added a lot more work than usual.  Since Martin works full-time during the week, on his normal job, his weekends are rather busy, it's not uncommon for him to get home 11pm or later and back out at 5am the next morning.  Thank goodness one our our son's has finished school for the year so is Martin's right hand man at the moment!  They are enjoying the special father and son time travelling to and from apiary sites.

 
These hives are heading out to our Hakarimata and Kirikiriroa sites.
 

A Poor Honey Harvest

Written by Stephanie on April 18th, 2018.      0 comments

You may have heard that honey harvests were poor this season. It is fair to say we had a pretty shocking season. We have harvested about two thirds less honey that we would normally harvest. The Waikato was hit the hardest. Apiary sites that we would typically harvest about 50 boxes of honey from, we harvested just 2-4 boxes. So I'm afraid to say we will not have these honeys available this year - Horsham Downs, Four Brothers, Hakarimata (apart from the batch from last season we still have in stock) and Kirikiriroa.

The good news is that it was a reasonable season at Marokopa so we have Marokopa Spring and Marokopa Manuka and will shortly have Marokopa Summer available. The Marokopa Summer and Marokopa Manuka honeys didn't come easy as there was a freak weather event in Marokopa that swept a huge amout of water through the valley and there were several slips on the sheep station we have our hives on. A lot of the farm tracks collapsed so it made it very tricky getting the honey out, but we did it!

 

Why Such A Bad Season?


The variable weather at the end of last year and early this year have interrupted the honey flow, and added to this was the severe weather patterns (storms, cyclones,) and then extreme heat. Bees can't fly in strong winds or rain so during those times the bees stay in the hive, therefore reducing their nectar collecting time. The severe weather can strip flowers from trees/plants leaving less flowers for the bees to forage on as well.

The very wet spring appears to have affected clover flowering and nectar production. Even though you may have seen clover flowers this summer, little nectar was produced. Very hot weather can burn summer crops and honey flow virtually stops. The bees end up gathering water, instead of nectar, to try and cool down the hives.

Despite the challenges the bees have come out of the season very healthy and strong, they just haven’t been able to collect a surplus this year. With the season officially over, some of our bees have been treated to a late nectar flow which will keep them going over the winter quite nicely.

 
Marokopa-Slip-804





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Marokopa-Trolly-15
One of the many slips in Marokopa The track had collapsed in many areas Walking up to check the hives and move by trolly if needed.


Check out what's in season in our honey store

    
 

Don't Worry if You've Missed Ordering Online Before Christmas!

Written by Stephanie on December 15th, 2017.      0 comments

We have snuck away for a little break before Christmas, as we'll be busy beekeeping over the holidays.  We will not be sending any orders from 14th December until 3rd Jan.  But don't worry you can still purchase our honeys at your local stockist and Harald will be at the Hamilton Farmers Market on Sunday 17th December!  We will also have our full range of honey, pollen, gift boxes, HoneyWraps and seeds at the Farm Shop in Gordonton Village.  Here are their hours up until Christmas:


The Farm Shop, 1060 Gordonton Road, Gordonton Village Hours:


Christmas DecorationWed 13th Dec   10am to 6pm
Thur 14th Dec   10am to 6pm
Fri    15th Dec   10am to 5pm
Sat 16th Dec     9am to 5pm
Sun 17th Dec   10am to 5pm
Mon 18th Dec   10am to 5pm
Tues 19th Dec   10am to 5pm
Wed 20th Dec   10am to 6pm
Thur 21st Dec   10am to 6pm
Fri 22nd Dec   10am to 5pm
Sat 23rd Dec     9am to 5pm
Xmas Eve (24th)  10am to .........

As you can see they will be running 12 days straight to the build up to Christmas Eve!  Thanks team!
 

Plastic Avoided In The Production of Sweetree Honey

Written by Stephanie on August 23rd, 2017.      0 comments

Many people, including Martin and I, like to limit the purchase of food in plastic packaging.  People do this for various reasons but mainly for environmental or health motivations.  One way of limiting plastic is to purchase food in glass jars instead of plastic.  When we were deciding how to package our honey it had to be glass.  It is so much healthier, attractive and environmentally friendly.

But have you thought about how honey is stored before it goes into the jar?  In the beehive honey used to always be stored on beeswax comb foundation which was wired into a wooden frame.  But what is most commonly used now is plastic frames with plastic sheets embossed with hexagon indentations for the bees to work with as a foundation. The other common one is a wooden framing with a plastic insert foundation.  Here are some photos of what they look like.

plastic-foundation       Plastic-frame

The thing that concerns us about these is the possibility of plastic residue getting into the honey, the bees health working from a plastic foundation, let alone the environmental issue of what to do with the plastic frames and foundations when they are broken or past their best.  We was concerned to see all these plastic beehives (the whole hive in plastic) for sale at a beekeeping conference we recently attended.  That's a lot of plastic!  What will happen to them when they are finished with?  I guess they will end up in the landfill!

Sweetree's policy is to use wooden hive gear and frames with beeswax foundations wherever possible for our honey collection.
Wax-frame
Beehive frame with beeswax foundation
 

Purchase Sweetree honey with no plastic residue

 

The Joys of a Family Business

Written by Stephanie on May 14th, 2017.      0 comments

The thing I love about working from home in our family business is that I'm there for our boys, I can go to their sports days, be home for them after school or when they are sick.  It's great that I can work around them. They are the reason we started this business, so I could earn an income but still be there for the boys.  

As they  have got older I've come across another bonus of having a family business, extra hands available when we need them!  The boys have helped from time to time over the years, whether it's emptying a pallet of jars into boxes, labelling jars of honey or packets of pollen, or helping to pack honey. But as they are getting older and stronger (14 & 12) I'm thinking it won't be long until they are helping Martin in the field on a regular basis!  Daniel helped Martin harvest the Ohui Manuka this season and was pleasantly surprised that he enjoyed it!  And when they have a car license they might be keen to do the markets for us!
Daniel-beekeeping

Here's some photos taken over the years of the boys helping:
Boys-Helping-Pic-Collage

 
 

What's So Special About Kirikiriroa Honey?

Written by Stephanie on February 19th, 2017.      0 comments

Unblended honeys are not new, but the fact that Sweetree’s honeys are not based on a single flower source but the local area and season make our approach unique. For this reason we choose our sites carefully and we never mix honey from different locations. Each apiary location has its own special nuance and character and this is reflected in the honey when you come to taste it.

Sweetree Kirikiriroa is certainly no exception!  This honey came about when we approached the Hamilton City Council in early 2014, looking for iconic Hamilton locations to place some of our hives. After discussions with staff, Hamilton Gardens, Hamilton Zoo and Taitua Arboretum were identified as ideal locations for the bees to do their business.

We have 45 hives in these Hamilton City sites and we love that we can produce a honey that reflects the flora and places of Hamilton. The three locations we’ve chosen are some of our most-loved and beautiful sites, and this enhances their reputation and the fantastic work staff is doing there.

Martin-with-Dep-MayorAt the Hamilton Farmers Market, many locals tell us they don’t have any bees in their gardens and they would be very keen to have some. In the height of summer we now add 1,500,000 bees into the city, each with a 5km flight range, and we are very pleased to be working with Council to make some contribution to improving biodiversity and nature in the city.

Julie Hardaker, the city’s previous Mayor, said the partnership with Sweetree Honey emphasis Council’s commitment to protecting the city’s natural environment, while promoting public-private partnerships. “Hamilton is known for its green spaces and this is a great match. Bees pollinate an estimated 70 per cent of our food crops, so gardeners near these three locations will benefit as well,” Mayor Hardaker says.

Hamilton Zoo Director Stephen Standley says the hives are a welcome addition to the Zoo’s biodiversity. They are proud to be part of a combined effort with Hamilton Gardens and Taitua Arboretum to produce a quality product for people to buy, and the sweet treat is also given to the zoo’s honey-eating birds such as the tui as well as primates.

When Martin dropped the zoo beehives into their site adjacent to the giraffe enclosure at 6:30am.  It was very quiet and also a little surreal to see seven long necks towering above the foliage and 14 large eyes staring at him stock still and watching his every move!  That's a first in beekeeping for him!

Sweetree Kirikiriroa honey won silver at the National Beekeepers Honey Competition in 2015!  Unfortunately we didn't have it packed out in time for the 2016 competition.  Cross fingers it will be for this years!


Kirikiriroa-and-cheese
Get a taste of the Hamilton City and try pairing it with different food and in different recipes.  

Last year we paired out honeys with Meyer Cheese and Good George Beers made in the Waikato.  The Kirikiriroa honey works beautifully with Meyer's Garlic and Chives cheese and Good George IPA.  

You might like to try this Creme Brûlée recipe made for us by a local chef using Kirirkiriroa honey. 


Purchase our Kirikiriroa honey here!

 

Check out the great locations to visit within Hamilton City

 

Beekeeping in the Blood

Written by Stephanie on March 26th, 2016.      0 comments

Grandads-HivesBees have always been a part of Martin's life, you could say that beekeeping is in his blood!  Martin's granddad always had hives to feed honey to his seven children, extended family and friends.  As you can see from the photo he had quite a few.  We're not sure when he started beekeeping or whether his father was also into beekeeping but the love of bees was passed down to Martin's dad and uncle.  They both enjoyed tending to their hives when they had families of their own.  Martin remembers as a young child the hand extraction in the garage with bees flying everywhere. He developed a keen interest himself in his teenage years and eventually inherited his dads hives.

Martin says "Bees are highly resilient creatures and very interesting to work with. Visiting remote & beautiful areas in the Waikato while looking after our bees is a joy and nothing beats the taste and aroma of honey from freshly waxed frames on a warm summer’s day".



 
 

This Season's Honey is Harvested!

Written by Stephanie on March 19th, 2016.      0 comments

Sweetree-hakarimata-harvest-2016-576
We have just finished harvesting and extracting this season's honeys and thanks to our wonderful helpers who have assisted at each apiary location!  We couldn't have done it without you!  We are very lucky to have great family members and friends (and even friend's teenagers!) that make themselves available to help lift heavy boxes of honey off hives, onto trailers and then unload them at the honey house.  There's been some very long and exhausting days but it's been fun along the way. 


It hasn't been one of the best honey harvests but we are very thankful for what we do have. We will be able to pack at least one batch of each of these varieties of honey: Marokopa Spring, Marokopa Summer, Hakarimata, Kirikiriroa, Four Brothers Reserve, Ohui Manuka and Horsham Downs. It has been a bad season for manuka honey around the country so we are lucky to have a small batch of Ohui Manuka and we have just packed the last of the previous seasons Marokopa Manuka.

honey-harvest-2016-508You may have noticed our online honey store is looking a little bare at the moment,  please be patient with us while we pack the honeys.  It all takes time!  We use someone else's facilities to extract and pack our honeys and they are in the process of installing a new packing machine, so there will be delays.  We are incredible lucky to work with the best beekeepers / honey packers in the Waikato and very lucky to use their facilities.  We do need to fit around them to pack our honey but we hope to have the honeys available as soon as possible.  The first one to be packed will be Four Brothers Reserve!

 
 

Re-using Sweetree Honey Jars

Written by Stephanie on February 26th, 2016.      0 comments

We use glass jars to store our honey for several reasons.  Apart from the fact that they are more attractive than plastic they are also healthier.  But another reason is that they are recyclable.  They can be put in your recycling bin or you can reuse or repurpose them yourself.  There are some amazing and beautiful ways you can re use glass jars, we have a few ideas on our Pinterest board.   Or you can use them for storing bits and bobs such as food in your pantry, sewing bits in your sewing area, screws in the workshop, etc.  And of course they are perfect for preserving.  

I gave mum a labelling machine for Christmas and she has recently made some bread n butter pickle using her new machine and an old Sweetree Honey jar!  Nothing like home preserves!
 
bread n butter pickle
 
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What do our customers say?

"This honey so delicious!  It taste just like when I was a kid, rather than the supermarket brands"  Anna Bradford, Rotorua
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