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.
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