Bees on the block

by Anonymous Author

For lifestyle blocks the bee is an asset as it pollinates clover, crops and garden flowers, and produces that delectable sweet delight — honey.

Retired veterinarian and lifestyle block owner Dr Marjorie Orr, said bees are extremely important to agriculture and horticulture businesses.

While gathering pollen and nectar from clovers, fruit trees, garden flowers and many horticultural crops, bees move pollen from one plant to another, pollinating the plants as they go. This is necessary if the plant is to produce fruit and seed.

Dr Orr said among the main threats to bees are a reduction in flower numbers, the use of insecticides on farms and gardens, and the onset of pests and diseases that weaken and kill bees.

“Not so long ago, bees got much of their pollen from broom, gorse and willow, and the pollen was very nutritious for hives,” Dr Orr said. 

“These plants are now classified as pests by councils and the Department of Conservation, so there are fewer of them around. This means that in many areas, there is less pollen and therefore honey-bee hives are weaker.”

Dr Orr said the effects of insecticides on bees can be reduced by avoiding applying insecticides to flowering crops in daylight hours while bees are around.

“Unusually warm temperatures in the early morning or evening may result in bees foraging when they would normally be back in their hive.”

If using pesticides, choose products that break down quickly after application.

“Pesticides that degrade within a few hours of application can be applied with minimal risk when bees are not foraging. When temperatures are unusually low, insecticide residues may remain toxic for longer. Products with activity lasting more than eight hours merit extra precautions.”

The most hassle-free way of acquiring a healthy bee presence is to ask a registered local bee-keeper if he or she would like to keep a few hives on your lifestyle block.

All you need to provide is a quiet sheltered sunny corner and plenty of flowering plants.

To encourage feral bees and bees from neighbouring hives, plant or encourage bee-friendly trees and shrubs on waterway margins, in windbreaks, along field edges and roadsides and in native scrub and bush.