Case study: Waiau Apiaries

A substance with almost mythical properties, manuka honey can fetch anywhere from 30 EUR to 150 EUR for a small jar in the stores. Known for its health benefits, Manuka honey is an ingredient found in premium skin care products and cosmetics, as well as being a luxury food item. For producers of Manuka honey, maintaining production without compromising quality is of the utmost importance.

Manuka hives equipped with the Vatorex technology.

Waiau Apiaries is in Hurunui district, on the South Island of New Zealand and specializes in Manuka honey. The company keeps 2000 hives across 115 apiaries, often in extremely remote locations. As with many apiculturialists in the region, Director Nick Belton has felt the effects of the varroa mite first-hand. He started beekeeping 14 years ago, before the varroa mite had arrived on the South Island. Since then, he has witnessed the change to more invasive and intensive hive management procedures in order to control the growing problem.

This led him to explore new innovations in varroa mite control. Nick was searching for a solution that was effective at controlling the invasive mite, but didn’t impact the valuable Manuka honey, yield or the colonies. It also needed to be robust enough to withstand New Zealand conditions. In his investigation, Nick discovered the thermal based technology developed by Vatorex. Intrigued by the premise of a chemical free varroa treatment, he visited Switzerland in 2019 to get hands on experience with the products and to meet the team.

With so much depending upon varroa control, and the manuka honey harvest, Nick needed to feel confident that the new technology would meet his requirements. He initially planned a small order of 6 kits to trial, however after learning that the Vatorex solution require no additional maintenance after installation and would provide year round varroa treatment to his more remote apiary locations, Nick increased the order to 25 kits. The varroa kits were installed in 3 different apiaries in Winter 2019, ready for the summer 2020 season.

For Nick Belton and Waiau Apiaries, the initial trial has been a success. Since installing the first varroa kits two seasons ago, the chemical free treatment has provided consistent varroa control without the need for any other miticides or treatments. The team has witnessed no signs of Parasitic Mite Syndrome or Deformed Wing Virus and there has been no discernible varroa damage to brood. One result that particularly surprised Nick, was the ability for the varroa solution to restore several colonies that he believed to be beyond saving. Convinced with the results of the first trial, Waiau Apiaries plans on introducing Vatorex technology to more hives in the coming season.