Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor says the honey industry is operating like "the wild west" but an industry body says it is trying hard to up its game.
Mr O'Connor made the comments at a conference of animal and plant health experts today.
He said because of the commercial opportunities, some apiaries were being over-stocked, which left bees hungry and that in turn affected the health of the hive.
He said the industry must cooperate properly on core issues.
"I think this is the wild west of the primary sector, they've grown very very quickly ... and it hasn't always been in a sensible or rational way.
"I think if you've got over-stocking and you've got bees that are hungry and not being fed properly, or not being fed the right stuff ... then that's not good," he said.
Mr O'Connor said the government was prepared to work with the honey industry to bring things into order.
Apiculture New Zealand chief executive Karin Kos said she agreed the industry had experienced rapid growth, with close to 900,000 registered beehives today, compared to fewer than 400,000 ten years ago.
Ms Kos said there had been some growing pains, but it was making a lot of effort to improve, and had introduced a beekeeping code of practice.
"We recognise the need to step up and put more investment into how we ensure we continue to have a sustainable industry," she said.
New Zealand did have much better bee health than other countries such as the US, Ms Kos said.
"In New Zealand, bee colony loss is under 10 percent, and that's a great record," she said.
Apiculture New Zealand is seeking feedback on whether to introduce a commodity levy on honey, which Ms Kos said would help manage and leverage rapid industry growth.
Damien O'Connor said he supported this proposal.