Bees sus­tain our lives – be bee wise

Matamata Chronicle - - Rural Delivery -

With­out the in­cred­i­ble honey bee, two-thirds of the food we take for granted would al­most van­ish, mak­ing life as we know it im­pos­si­ble.

‘‘The re­al­ity is that no bees mean no food and no peo­ple. That’s no joke be­cause bees make civil­i­sa­tion pos­si­ble,’’ said John Hart­nell, Fed­er­ated Farm­ers Bees chair­man.

‘‘If we don’t look af­ter all nat­u­ral pol­li­na­tors and the honey bee es­pe­cially, we could see eco­nomic and so­cial col­lapse. We are truly tip­toe­ing around the edge of a global chasm.

‘‘One-third of the food all hu­mans eat is di­rectly pol­li­nated by honey bees. Noth­ing comes close to match­ing na­ture’s su­per pol­li­na­tor. It is why the honey bee is [the] most in­dis­pens­able an­i­mal to mod­ern so­ci­ety.

‘‘When you eat your main meal tonight, just ex­am­ine what’s on your plate. Any­thing of colour, from avo­ca­dos to zuc­chi­nis, is only there be­cause of honey­bee pol­li­na­tion.

‘‘What’s more, an­other third of the food we eat from agri­cul­ture is in­di­rectly sup­ported by honey bees pol­li­nat­ing pas­ture and crops.

‘‘While too much ni­tro­gen can be a bad thing, too lit­tle, we for­get, makes life im­pos­si­ble. With­out bees no one would be rolling in clover. It is that sim­ple and that stark.

‘‘Then of course there is fruit; our sixth largest ex­port worth more than $1.6 bil­lion each year. Whether it is ki­wifruit, ap­ple, blue­berry, cherry or pear, all are di­rectly pol­li­nated by the honey bee.

“With­out the honey bee, we’d be pretty much de­pen­dent on an aus­tere diet of fish, starch, grains and sea­weed.

‘‘In China, much of its pear in­dus­try re­lies on pol­li­na­tion by hu­man hand be­cause the overuse of agri­cul­tural chem­i­cals has made the land hos­tile to the honey bee.

‘‘That is why bees are an in­dus­try group within Fed­er­ated Farm­ers and share pol­icy re­sources with our arable sec­tor. This recog­nises just how vi­tal bees are to farm­ing and farm­ers know that.

There are some very sim­ple rules when we look at agri­cul­tural sprays and ir­ri­ga­tion:

If the crop is flow­er­ing and bees are fly­ing and work­ing the crop, leave spray­ing un­til dusk and be­fore dawn. This is gen­er­ally bet­ter than the day it­self, with less wind and less spray drift.

While a chem­i­cal may be said to be bee friendly, do not take the risk. Of­ten, the stick­ing agent mixed with the chem­i­cal can be more dan­ger­ous to bees than the ac­tive prod­uct it­self

En­sure any spray­ing con­trac­tor is fully briefed on your re­quire­ments. De­lib­er­ately flout­ing these guide­lines is a pros­e­cutable of­fence and the prospects of a bee­keeper ac­cept­ing a con­tract to pol­li­nate your crops in the fu­ture will be greatly di­min­ished.

Wa­ter via ir­ri­ga­tion is a ma­jor threat to bee life. The bee can­not live in a cold, wet en­vi­ron­ment and it will rapidly chill and die be­fore re­turn­ing to the hive:

Use com­mon sense and ir­ri­gate in the evening and not dur­ing the day when bees are fly­ing. This has the ad­van­tage of greater wa­ter re­ten­tion for pas­ture and crops

If you want hives in a crop, then en­sure an ir­ri­ga­tor can­not drift across and lit­er­ally take out the hives.

Plac­ing hives for good pol­li­na­tion is like sell­ing a house; it is lo­ca­tion, lo­ca­tion, lo­ca­tion:

En­sure hives are out of the travel path of any ir­ri­ga­tor

Dif­fer­ent crops have dif­fer­ent re­quire­ments. For those crops the bees want to work, like white clover, they will fly some dis­tance to seek pollen and nec­tar. Lo­cat­ing them over the fence in a shel­tered warm north-fac­ing site will do the job

Some crops, such as ki­wifruit, car­rots and onions, are a lit­tle less palat­able for the honey bee. In this in­stance, plac­ing the hives in the pad­dock or the or­chard di­rectly with the crop can en­hance the pol­li­na­tion strike rate. Again com­mon sense will pre­vail, the honey bee is a mas­ter pollen and nec­tar gatherer; show them the op­por­tu­nity and they will get on with the job, weather per­mit­ting.

Much of the ad­vice above ap­plies equally at home in the sub­urbs with gar­den­ers. Mak­ing home gar­dens an invit­ing place for a bee to visit in­creases pol­li­na­tion suc­cess:

Use a mix­ture of bee-friendly plants placed in your gar­den, which en­cour­age bees to fly in and do their job of pol­li­na­tion

Laven­der in the veg­etable plot or or­chard is a great start.

For bee friendly plant­ing ideas search “trees for bees” in Google.

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