Hail the honey bee

The oft-un­der­val­ued honey bee is al­ways buzzing away in the back­ground. The in­au­gu­ral Bee Aware Month cel­e­brates our most tire­less crit­ter.

Element - - Bee Awareness Month - By So­phie Bar­clay

For all the travel, hus­tle and in­dus­tri­ous toil typ­i­cal of the aver­age worker honey bee, its life’s achieve­ment amounts to just 1/12th of a tea­spoon of honey.

Not con­tent with the mar­vel of vis­it­ing four mil­lion flow­ers per kilo­gram pro­duced of that mirac­u­lous sub­stance, bees can also be taught to re­mem­ber colours, shapes, let­ters and num­bers and can com­mu­ni­cate the dis­tance and di­rec­tion of the near­est food source to their hive mates. Th­ese winged ge­niuses are also re­spon­si­ble for the pol­li­na­tion of around a third of all food on our plates.

The National Bee­keep­ers As­so­ci­a­tion (NBA), which fronted the month of bee-re­lated brouhaha, is work­ing with the Min­istry for Pri­mary In­dus­tries to es­tab­lish a na­tion­wide bee health sur­vey to fill in the gaps around the health of our hives.

Bees have been buzzing in and out of the spot­light fol­low­ing the re­cent con­tro­versy on pes­ti­cides con­tain­ing neon­i­coti­noids, a chem­i­cal that af­fects the ner­vous sys­tem. Stud­ies show that neon­i­coti­noids af­fect both honey and bumble bees by low­er­ing their im­mu­nity, re­duc­ing the num­ber of queens and caus­ing bees to be­come dis­ori­en­tated while for­ag­ing for honey and fail­ing to re­turn to the hive.

Our poor bees have a hard time. The lack of bee-friendly habi­tat and food source; the in­sid­i­ous Var­roa mite; ram­pant pes­ti­cide use and a num­ber of dis­eases (some of which can be in­tro­duced by im­port­ing honey into New Zealand) are im­ping­ing on the health of bees. In North­land, Waikato and in Auck­land, the Var­roa mite has al­ready de­vel­oped a re­sis­tance to some of the miti­cides used within the hives. Ac­cord­ing to NBA CEO, Daniel Paul: “We need to do all we can to help pro­tect our bees to stop the sit­u­a­tion get­ting worse.”

To do­nate to fund bee-re­lated re­search, or for more in­for­ma­tion on Bee Aware Month and bee-friendly plants, head to nba.org.nz/bee-aware-month

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