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Give lawns a rest – ‘Bee a Hero’

A bee on a clover flower. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Eli Hill

Forget about mowing your lawns – plant a variety of trees, and watch where you put beehives.

That’s just some of the advice being given by beekeepers as New Zealand enters Bee Aware Month.

Bee Aware Month is an annual educational campaign organised by Apiculture New Zealand and supported by bee lovers across New Zealand.

Wairarapa beekeeper and Hunter Reilly owner Stuart Ferguson said planting a variety of plants – particularly those that flowered around winter was a good way to help bee populations.

Eucalyptus and rosemary, ‘pip trees’ such as apples and pears, and New Zealand flax are all bee friendly.

But it’s not just what you plant – one of the biggest things people should watch out for is putting too many hives in one area, Ferguson said.

“It’s like cows in a paddock, if you put too many cows in one paddock, they’ll graze it out and there’ll be no food left.

“If the bees have had to stay in their hives for a month because of the weather they’re going to be quite weak, when the weather improves if they can’t find food close by they’ll try to fly further and often they won’t make it back leading to a massive die-off.’

Overstocking can also increase varroa transmission among hives.

Ferguson’s advice to people looking at getting bees on their property is to talk to their neighbours and beekeepers to make sure there is enough room for all.

One hive every one to two hectares is a good rule of thumb.

Spraying, and neonicotinoids (used to protect seeds from insects) can also harm bees.

‘If you’re thinking about spraying make sure you let your neighbours and beekeepers in the area know – if the weather is good and the flowers are out bees will land on them and bring the chemicals back to their hive.’

Apiculture New Zealand CEO Karin Kos said there are two key goals of the month-long campaign.
“We want to lift awareness of the critical importance of bees to New Zealand’s environment, food chain and economy, and teach Kiwis some simple actions that everyone can take to improve bee health.”

Kos says non-gardeners can also do their bit.

“Mowing your lawns less often is one really simple thing that can make a difference for bees. Weeds like clover and dandelions are great food for bees.”

Kos also encourages Kiwis to support everyday bee heroes: our beekeepers.

“Since the advent of varroa, beekeepers’ have become essential to the survival of honeybees. Our beekeepers work hard to care for and protect our bees.

“Buying local honey, especially some of our beautiful native varieties like rewarewa or kāmahi, or other bee products is a great way to back our beekeepers and their bees,” she said.

Throughout Bee Aware Month, Apiculture New Zealand and its supporters and sponsors will be sharing bee facts, running competitions and, organising community events.

  • New Zealanders can find out more by visiting www.beeawarenz.co.nz and following the Bee Aware Month Facebook and Instagram pages.

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