Honey week & how to help out the bees
It’s autumn already, time to spare a thought for the bees as you head (yet again) to the garden centre to replace those tired shrubs, trees and flowering plants around the home. It’s also the end of the honey season and, as the abundance of summer flowers dwindle, it can be a time of food shortage for our endangered little pollinators.
As well as drawing attention to the diversity and quality of the eight main types of single-flower honeys available in New Zealand, the second Airborne Annual Honey Week (March 16-23) will feature a series of activities to raise funds for Trees for Bees. The Kiwi research organisation is dedicated to bee health and encourages the planting of bee-friendly gardens. Dr Linda Newstrom-Lloyd of Trees for Bees says it is well known that bees thrive in urban areas because of the diversity and abundance of pollen and nectar in gardens and, during autumn and spring, many beekeepers move their hives closer to urban areas because of a shortage of bee plants on farms and public land.
So what should we be growing to help out? “The most important thing is to make sure that flowers have anthers with lots of pollen on them,” Linda says. “Many ornamental double flowers such as roses and camellias do not have many, or even any, anthers.
Look for annuals and perennials such as phacelia and anything in the rose family that’s a single flower. In a small garden, shrubs or trees like ceanothus or rosemary or Japanese maple [acer palmatum] have attractive flowers.” It’s vital, Linda adds, to ensure there are always some productive flowers for all seasons when the bees need food.
Bees can travel from two to five kilometres, or even more, for good food sources. To help them find what they need, also consider planting large clumps of the same species, rather than a single plant — a mass planting looks more attractive too.
Unlike most honey-producing countries, New Zealand is well known for not using antibiotics for the treatment of bee diseases. Kiwi beekeepers have the most disease-free bees in the world and produce honey that is totally natural.
Along with planting for bees, hiring a beehive is a good way to support bee populations. Angus Willison of Over the Hill Hive Hire has worked full-time over the past two years supplying fully maintained hives to homes and lifestyle blocks from Whitford to Silverdale.
Auckland City bylaws allow for one hive per residential section. From a quarterly to an annual arrangement, the deal means ready pollination in your garden and 7kg of honey annually for the hirer — along with the satisfying knowledgethat as well as increasing bee numbers, you are increasing the yield of our fruit trees and flowering species and even supporting our agricultural economy.