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Planting for spring? Think trees for bees

While the bee float in the Blossom Parade this month was fun, it did come with a serious message.

The “little bees” buzzing around behind the float were handing out information on the importance of bees, particularly honey bees, to our lives. The information included a list of plants people can grow in their home gardens to help feed the bees. While  many people will be aware of the lethal damage the varoa bee mite has caused since it invaded New Zealand in 2000, they may not be aware that lack of food is also a serious problem, according to advocacy organisation Trees for Bees.

“These tiny workers are pretty much the unsung champions of Hawke’s Bay’s economy,” says Hastings District Council parks manager Colin Hosford, whose department designed the bee.

In Hawke’s Bay, honey bees are responsible for pollinating the fruit trees that underpin the economy: The peaches, apples, nectarines, grapes, and more.

Across the world, without bees, we would be seriously short of coffee, chocolate, nets and clothes made from cotton.

The Trees for Bees website explains how it works: “Bees consume pollen as a protein and vitamin source and nectar for energy. While gathering these resources, they move pollen from one plant to another thus benefiting the farm by pollinating crops.”

Spring is particularly important, as bees build up their energy for the summer pollinating season. “Availability of quality pollen resources is critical during spring when beekeepers are building up bee populations for pollination services. Any shortfall leads to weakened bees making them susceptible to pests and diseases. It also dramatically slows the queens breeding output and results in under-performing pollination services,” says Trees for Bees.

The organisation provides lists of trees that are beneficial to bees. It has a specific list of large trees (native and exotic) for larger areas of land in Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne, and a list for the home gardener.

“Bees are incredibly important to all of us for our vegetables, flowers, trees. And that is not only in our home gardens but in our parks and reserves as well; and of course they are crucial to our region’s economy given the part they play in the pollination of fruit trees. They’re pretty easy to overlook, so we want to do our bit to bring them to everyone’s attention,” says Mr Hosford.

Bee friendly plants: 

Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera)
Cornflower (Centaurea spp.)
Hollyhock (Alcea spp.)
Michaelmas daisy (Aster novae-angliae)
Penstemon (Penstemon spp.)
Phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia)
Salvia (Salvia spp.)
Sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima)
Zinnia (Zinnia spp.)

Trees, shrubs and climbers

Australian gum (Eucalyptus spp.)
Bottlebrush (Callistemon spp.)
Cabbage tree (Cordyline australis) *
Harakeke, NZ Flax (Phormium tenax) *
Koromiko (Hebe spp.) *
Lemonwood, koru (Pittosporum spp.) *
NZ jasmine (Parsonsia heterophylla) *
NZ Lacebark (Hoheria populnea) *
Pohutukawa (Metrosideros spp.) *
Rata (Metrosideros spp.) *
Rewarewa (Knightia excelsa) *
Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera)
Wisteria (Wisteria sinensis)

*indicates NZ native plant species

For more see:

4 October 2017

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