Lov­ing our pol­li­na­tors in Septem­ber

Selwyn and Ashburton Outlook - - MOTORING -

We’re cel­e­brat­ing the hum­ble bum­ble this month with our friends at NZ Gar­dener.


Pollen gives the bees vi­tal pro­teins and fats, and the sug­ars in nec­tar pro­vide the en­ergy source they need to make honey. Without them, bees not only be­come mal­nour­ished, they are also weaker and more vul­ner­a­ble to pests and diseases.

In the early stages of their life cy­cle, when they are help­less lar­vae, they are vo­ra­cious eaters, con­sum­ing each day some 1300 meals of ‘‘bee bread’’, a mix of pollen, honey and bee se­cre­tions. Fe­male worker bees live for about six weeks, dur­ing which their most ex­haust­ing job is vis­it­ing plants to gather food for the colony, spread­ing pollen as they go. Bees will also seek out shal­low ponds and pud­dles.

Put a bird­bath or sim­ply a saucer of wa­ter on a win­dow ledge. Some­where to perch while drink­ing is ap­pre­ci­ated too, so put in some stones or clean gravel.

Plant lots of bee-friendly wild­flow­ers, herbs, shrubs and fruit trees. Even flow­er­ing veg­eta­bles such as win­ter sa­vory, cu­cum­ber and broc­coli con­tain the pollen and nec­tar that bees need.


Whereas honeybees are ac­tive through­out win­ter, keep­ing their hive warm and safe, the bum­ble­bee hi­ber­nates.

The last bum­ble­bee brood of the sum­mer colony con­tains a num­ber of queens. Each of th­ese new-gen­er­a­tion queens mates, be­fore hi­ber­nat­ing un­der­ground over win­ter. In spring she emerges and be­gins look­ing for a new site to start a new colony. The bum­ble­bee nest is de­vel­oped by a sin­gle queen, who lays her eggs and for­ages for food to store for her young. Once hatched, the lar­vae feed on the stored food. Af­ter a pe­riod the lar­vae stop feed­ing and pu­pate; about two weeks later, the adult worker emerges. Even­tu­ally, th­ese adults take over the for­ag­ing du­ties from the queen.

A hon­ey­bee hive, on the other hand, can sur­vive many years. Dur­ing win­ter the bees typ­i­cally stay in their hives. Honey stored in the hive dur­ing sum­mer and au­tumn feeds the bees dur­ing the win­ter months.

New Zealand has a num­ber of na­tive bee species. Most lead soli­tary lives and don’t pro­duce honey, but they are good lit­tle pol­li­na­tors and can of­ten be found on na­tive Aster­aceae (such as olearia and senecio), Myr­taceae (rata and manuka), and Fabaceae (kowhai and clianthus), among other plants. Most of our na­tive bees make their nests in holes in tree trunks, soil or sand, with only one fam­ily in each nest. Each fe­male lays three to 10 eggs be­fore dy­ing. Any fe­males from those eggs go on to build their own nests. Our na­tive bees over­win­ter ei­ther as adults or pre­pu­pae.

When honeybees and bumblebees emerge from their nests or hives as the weather be­comes warmer, it is im­por­tant they find a source of nec­tar and pollen im­me­di­ately. Without it, their pop­u­la­tions will de­crease and crops will suf­fer.

Ac­knowl­edge that even bees which don’t give us honey (and many other in­sects oth­er­wise con­sid­ered pests) are im­por­tant pol­li­na­tors.


Other pol­li­na­tors in­clude...

• Wind: Pollen can be blown through the air for fairly long dis­tances but it’s down to luck whether it reaches an­other plant. Wind-pol­li­nated flow­ers usu­ally have lit­tle scent and no nec­tar, and are on tall stalks that are eas­ily shaken. Na­tive ex­am­ples in­clude rimu, toe­toe and kauri.

• Flies, but­ter­flies and moths: In­sects like plants that are white, pink or green with lots of nec­tar and a strong scent. Small, open flow­ers in clus­ters make it eas­ier for them to reach the nec­tar, and mass-plant­ing in groups means they don’t have too far to travel. They like ko­rokio (Corokia co­toneaster), astelia and karaka.

• Birds: Few birds have a sense of smell, so flow­ers don’t need to be strongly scented. Birds do, how­ever, look for lots of nec­tar and are at­tracted to large, brightly coloured blooms. They can fly long dis­tances, so you only need a sin­gle spec­i­men in your gar­den. Try kowhai or harakeke (flax).


Lo­cal bees need all the help they can get.

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