Creating a buzz in your backyard
Urban gardeners are being urged to lend a hand to a small and often overlooked worker that plays a huge part in New Zealand’s economic well-being – the humble honey bee.
Landcare Research has joined with the National Beekeepers’ Association (NBA) to launch the Urban Trees for Bees programme in collaboration with the Auckland Council, the Auckland Beekeepers Club and the New Zealand branch of the Oceania Pollinator Initiative.
The initiative is based on the successful Trees for Bees programme launched last year that was aimed at the agriculture sector and is based on improving the numbers and health of New Zealand’s bee stocks.
Bees rely on nectar and pollen for their food and without it they get weak or starve, are less able to resist diseases and pests and cannot reproduce to build up strong colonies.
Honey bee numbers in New Zealand are increasingly threatened with the long term effects of varroa combined with the addition of a number of new diseases. Added to this is the misuse of pesticides that affect bees in gardens and on farms, the loss of habitat for shelter and the lack of flowers for bee food.
Urban Trees for Bees includes tips to make gardens more bee-friendly and researcher Linda Newstrom-Lloyd says creating the list of best bee plants for gardeners was quite different from the previous regional lists for farmers.
“Plants in gardens often receive more specialised care than plants out on the farm and they don’t need to be so practical. In gardens, the possibilities for numerous plant species with glorious flowers are endless and even the vege garden can have lots of good bee plants like squash and corn.
“Almost all of the herb plants tend to have a lot of nectar and are particularly well loved by bees, especially rosemary, lavender and sage. The same is true for fruit trees like apples, and plums and especially citrus fruits. Native plants for the garden such as New Zealand flax and the cabbage tree are also of high value for bees,” Dr Newstrom-Lloyd says.
NBA spokesperson, Maureen Maxwell, says growing awareness of the plight of bees has seen an increase in calls from gardeners to assist.
“Now that there is a much greater awareness of the global bee crisis, most people want to do something to help the bees in New Zealand. The plant list we created for gardens in the Urban Trees for Bees project is an excellent tool that people can use to help protect the New Zealand honey bee in cities and in country gardens,” she says.
As well as consuming pollen for their protein and vitamins, and nectar for energy, bees also move pollen from one plant to another, and in the process pollinate plants.
The NBA believes about $5.1 billion of New Zealand’s economy is attributable to pollination by honey bees, domestic honey sales and exports, beeswax and exported honey bees. In addition to direct pollination, bees also contribute indirectly through the pollination of clover, sown for nitrogen regeneration, which benefits the meat industry. Many garden plants rely on bee pollination to bear seed or fruit.
The Urban Trees for Bees brochure presents a shortlist of bee plants suitable for both city and country gardens.
Click here to download a copy of the brochure.