More bee friendly species needed

The Southland Times - - WELL&GOOD - JILL GAL­LOWAY

Farm­ers need to look af­ter bees more by plant­ing bee-friendly trees and shrubs, says a Manawatu bee keeper. Chel­tenham com­mer­cial bee keeper Jason Prior told 20 peo­ple at a Manawatu/Ran­gi­tikei Fed­er­ated Farm­ers meet­ing that farm­ers could im­prove their prop­er­ties by cre­at­ing a bet­ter habi­tat for bees.

‘‘There is bet­ter bee food in some ar­eas. But many farm­ing ar­eas are just green deserts with no food for bees.’’

Prior said farm­ing ar­eas that had pas­ture of­ten had no dan­de­lions, daisies or plan­tain, which bees liked.

‘‘Twenty years ago, there was a lot of white clover for the bees. Now there isn’t much. Farm­ers put on ni­tro­gen and it shades the weed species. Of­ten rye­grass only grows.’’

Hay was not be­ing grown on farms and pas­ture was mainly rye­grass, pro­vid­ing lit­tle food for bees, he said.

Prior said white clover supplied good food to bees. Bees for­aged for pollen and nec­tar when tem­per­a­ture reached above 12 de­grees, but they were vul­ner­a­ble to chill­ing in cold winds.

He said farm­ers should be en­cour­aged to plant flow­er­ing gums, tree lucerne, fruit trees and pit­tospo­rum as well as many more bee-friendly species.

‘‘Plant hedges and trees, such as wil­lows, which bees like.’’

They also liked gorse, broom and black­berry which farm­ers were less keen on.

The bee keeper has al­most 1000 hives spread from Manawatu to south­ern Taranaki.

‘‘Be­fore I started com­mer­cial bee­keep­ing six years ago, I worked in an of­fice for 12 years be­fore that. I did telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions but I wanted to get into farm­ing. I didn’t have a spare mil­lion dol­lars to buy a farm, so I started bee keep­ing.’’

Jason and Amanda Prior have Dow­nun­der Honey and ex­tract honey and process it at their plant near Chel­tenham.

Prior said his small­est farm had six hives and the largest site had about 50. He said the hive sites were a mix of lifestyle blocks and farms.

The best so­lu­tion for the var­roa mite, which has cut hive num­bers and hive health, was to breed bee re­sis­tance to the killer mite, he said.

But he said that was hard with a queen bee mat­ing with up to 17 drones.

‘‘A guy I know went to Fiji, where they don’t have var­roa. He said the hives there looked so healthy.’’

Prior said there had tra­di­tion­ally been a close re­la­tion­ship be­tween bees and the farm­ing com­mu­nity.

‘‘There can be a sym­bi­otic re­la­tion­ship be­tween bees and white clover pol­li­na­tion. A hive is val­ued at $300 each year be­cause of the pol­li­na­tion of white clover. And clover needs to re­seed ev­ery six years, oth­er­wise it will die out.’’

He said farms with bees would have sig­nif­i­cantly more white clover and other pol­li­na­tors did not do the job.

‘‘Farm­ers with good bee food will find bee keep­ers knock­ing on their door.’’

A hive win­ters about 30,000 bees and builds up to sum­mer num­bers of about 80,000 bees.

Dur­ing early spring bees were of­ten short of food as hive num­bers build.

Prior said farm­ers at the Fed­er­ated Farm­ers meet­ing were in­ter­ested in manuka honey.

‘‘Peo­ple are tak­ing hives around all manuka stands now. They truck them to sites and leave them there. Then they put them out in pad­docks, to re­gen­er­ate num­bers.’’

He had sev­eral mes­sages for farm­ers.

‘‘There is a poor rate of hedge re­newal when macro­carpa is re­moved. Large ar­eas of Manawatu are not ca­pa­ble of sup­port­ing bees. Ap­proach your lo­cal bee­keeper and trees for bees has plant­ing guides.’’

PHOTO: FAIR­FAX NZ

A honey bee works on plum blos­som. Farm­ers need to plant more bee friendly tree and shrub species such as fruit trees.

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