Without the incredible honeybee, 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," says
John Hartnell, Federated Farmers Bees chairperson and a
Christchurch based exporter of bee products.
"If we don’t look after all natural pollinators and the
honeybee 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
honeybees. Nothing comes close to matching nature’s super
pollinator. It is why the honeybee is most indispensable animal to
"When you eat your main meal tonight, just examine what’s on
your plate. Anything of colour, from avocados to zucchinis, are
only there because of honeybee pollination.
"What’s more, another third of the food we eat from
agriculture is indirectly supported by honeybees 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 over
$1.6 billion each year. Whether it is kiwifruit, apple, blueberry,
cherry or pear, all are directly pollinated by the honeybee.
"Without the honeybee, 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 honeybee.
"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.
"Last year, Syd Fraser-Jones was conferred life membership of
Federated Farmers Waikato after 57 years of service.
"When accepting his life membership, Mr Fraser-Jones said the three
most important things to agriculture are ‘the bees, the bees
and the bees - you’ve got to look after the bees.’ That
says it all," Mr Hartnell concluded.
Being bee aware with sprays
There are some very simple rules when we look at agricultural
sprays and irrigation and this is as applicable to lifestyle block
farmers and councils, as it is to working farms:
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
Ensure any spraying contractor is fully briefed on your
requirements. Deliberately flaunting 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
Being bee aware with irrigation
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 can not drift
across and literally take out the hives.
Being bee aware with hive location
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 are a little less palatable for the honeybee, like
kiwifruit, carrots and onions. 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
honeybee is a master pollen and nectar gatherer; show them the
opportunity and they will get on with the job, weather permitting.
Being bee aware in the urban environment
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 and it
will flower right through the pollination period
Bee friendly gardening is just as important as bee friendly
farming. Keep it simple, keep it safe and bees will keep your
For bee friendly planting ideas
Please refer to Federated Farmers Trees for Bees at: