Honey Bee Health Campaign

(PR.co.nz) An ongoing programme that highlights the importance of bees to agriculture and offers practical ways to encourage better bee health on New Zealand farms is proving highly popular.

Landcare Research teamed up with Federated Farmers to provide information for farmers and the public to help support honey bee health through the Federated Farmers ‘Trees for Bees’ campaign that was launched late in 2009.

The Trees for Bees programme is actively supported by the National Beekeepers’ Association.

Since then there has been widescale uptake of the programme that consists of a brochure with background information and a series of ten regional guides for native and exotic shrubs and trees that are known to help keep bees healthy with nutritious pollen and nectar.

Landcare Research scientist Linda Newstrom-Lloyd said getting even more farmers and lifestylers involved would be a fitting way to mark national Bee Week (eds: 26-30 July) when New Zealanders are encouraged to give more thought to the significance of bees and other pollinators.

NBA chief executive, Daniel Paul, said Bee Week and the Trees for Bees programme are being promoted by the beekeeping industry to highlight the threats to bees and their importance to the New Zealand economy.

“Pollination by bees of crops like kiwifruit, avocados and apples is estimated to be worth $3.5 billion dollars a year to our economy,” Mr Paul said.

“We really can’t afford to be without large and healthy bee populations.”

Dr Newstrom-Lloyd said since bees consume pollen for its protein and vitamins, and nectar for energy, we need to choose plants with high quality pollen as well as plants with lots of nectar.

“Pollen is essential for protein to produce healthy adult bees and develop more brood. Nectar is like flight fuel for bees and the surplus is transformed into honey and stored by bees. We know that malnutrition lowers bees’ resistance to pests and diseases so the key is to provide diverse and nutritious pollen and nectar sources and to sequence the flowering times to keep the bees well nourished throughout the seasons.”

Sadly, the decline in floral resources for bees is not unique to New Zealand but a worldwide phenomenon as we lose more and more biodiversity.

“When choosing what to plant in waterway margins, windbreaks, along roadsides and other parts of their propery farmers can now choose bee friendly trees and shrubs,” said John Hartnell, chairman of the Federated Farmers Bee Industry Group.

“Many shelter and erosion control plants also produce abundant flowers to feed bees so choosing multi-purpose plants is smart farming for healthy bees.”

Urban and rural gardeners can also benefit from the ‘Trees for Bees’ programme. Since wild honey bees are scarce to non-existent, people now must rely on domesticated bees that are protected from varroa. To support these bees, a gardener must have sufficient bee forage to keep the bees in good health.

The ten regional Bee Plant Guides present a list of some of the most popular and appropriate plants that can be used in each region. These lists have been generated from Landcare Research’s databases on the New Zealand Flora and Dr Newstrom-Lloyd’s research on native and exotic plants that are attractive to honey bees.

More information on the ‘Trees for Bees’ programme including the introductory brochure and regional plant guides are available from www.fedfarm.org.nz/treesforbees or www.treesforbeesnz.org.

Media Release 2 August 2010 from Landcare Research.