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An increasing need to bee more aware

World Bee Day was marked on Saturday with Apiculture New Zealand urging people to grow bee-friendly plants and protect pollinators.

The call comes as Biosecurity New Zealand and Landcare Research found the area from Wairarapa to Taranaki had experienced a 14 per cent loss of commercial honeybee colonies last year.

The loss rate, due to the varroa mites and related complications, represented an 8.7 per cent increase on 2021 losses.

International studies have suggested there has been a decline in the number of bee species found each year since 1990.

Apiculture New Zealand chief executive Karin Kos said not only does the honeybee provide a great source of natural food, but it also plays a critical role as a commercial pollinator in our agriculture and horticulture sectors.

New Zealand has a flourishing population of honeybees cared for by 10,165 registered beekeepers, with a total of 718,214 hives across the country, she said.

Kos said with the hard work of producing honey done for the season, honeybees will now be foraging for food to keep their hives fed through the winter.

According to Fauna of New Zealand, there is a total of 41 known species of bees in the greater New Zealand biogeographical area, of which 27 are endemic – meaning they are found only in New Zealand – and of these, 14 were new to science as of 2007.

Only two of those endemic bees can be found in Wairarapa: Leioproctus vestitus and Leioproctus paahaumaa.

Natives bees do not have hives or produce honey like honeybees; they live in nests in the ground, under bare, undisturbed soils.

Females of the Leioproctus family dig 20 to 30cm tunnels into the ground, into which they lay one egg, and feed the larvae with pollen and nectar foraged from surrounding flowers.

Trees for Bees Farm planting adviser Dr Angus McPherson said that during autumn it is critical for colony health that bees have access to plentiful forage ahead of winter.

He said people can help local bee populations by considering bees when planting in their gardens and farms.

“Some foraging favourites that can be planted in May to help bees stock up on food for winter include herbs such as lavender, salvia, rosemary, and oregano, and shrubs such as michelia yunnanensis and the native koromiko,” McPherson said.

McPherson said taking care when using pesticide is also important for keeping bees and other pollinators safe.

“If insecticides or other garden chemicals need to be used, spraying after sunset, in calm and dry conditions away from budding flowers, can help keep neighbourhood pollinators safe.”

Before spraying large areas with insecticides, McPherson urged landowners to get in touch with owners of beehives in the area and inform contractors of the location of nearby beehives.

Bees commonly forage within a five-kilometre radius of their hive and may go further if food sources are scarce, McPherson said.

Grace Prior
Grace Prior
Grace Prior is a senior reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with a keen interest in environmental issues. Grace is the paper’s health reporter and regularly covers the rural sector, weather, Greater Wellington Regional Council, and coastal stories.

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