Many times I have read how the beekeepers trying to harvest Manuka honey claim there bees have an aversion to the small Manuka flowers and if alternatives are present they will choose the alternative over the Manuka tree (Leptospermum). There is a simple solution to fix this problem and that’s to make the bees right sized so that the Manuka flowers become a preferred flower. Although bees can harvest nectar from Leptospermum they find it a little cumbersome due to being just a bit bigger than would be desirable and so they tend to prefer other easier to harvest nectar from any available source and this tends to mix non active honey with the active Manuka honey and this lowers the overall Active levels of the final product.
By making bees a little smaller by the use of small cell foundation of 4.9mm the bees have a much greater tendency to harvest from the Leptospermum flowers and could increase honey harvest by 10% to 30%. The current method to get around this issue is to create an area of 125acres and place the bees in the centre so they have no other choice but to collect from the small Leptospermum flowers. This however does not overcome the issue of the bee’s natural aversion for accessing such a small flower. By the use of 4.9mm foundation the bees become 30% smaller compared to the standard 5.4mm foundation and this makes bees access to these flowers much more comfortable and easier so increases there willingness to collect nectar from these flowers. It also means that the current plantation size requirement of 125acres can become much smaller and still achieve very good results.
For anyone trying to collect Manuka honey it would make sense to have bees that are the right size for the job and given that the majority of native bees are smaller than the European bee the logic becomes very clear that the current size of bees on 5.4mm foundation are not right sized for the job at hand.