Without bees, no one could roll in clover

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

modern society.

"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

product itself

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

diminished.

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

garden pollinated.

For bee friendly planting ideas

Please refer to Federated Farmers Trees for Bees at:

http://www.fedfarm.org.nz/treesforbees

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