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our busy bees
By DELWYN DICKEY
Little honey: The humble honey bee is the driving force behind nearly all our
primary industries but it is having a hard time.
THE health and prosperity
of virtually all types of
farming in New Zealand
comes down to one busy little
critter with a sweet tooth.
The true value to New Zealand
Inc of bees balloons out to a con-
servative $5 billion plus annually,
with more needing to be done to
educate people and protect bees
from overseas pests and diseases,
Federated Farmers bees spokes-
man John Hartnell says.
Federated Farmers and the
National Beekeepers Association
were promoting the value of bees
during Bee Week from May 30 to
Once common in your garden,
the wild honey bee is now almost
New Zealand s dependence on
horticulture and agriculture
means we may be more dependent
on pollination by bees than any
other country, association joint
chief executive officer Daniel Paul
While our direct income as an
industry sits at around $100
million, bees enable almost all
sectors except fisheries and for-
estry, he says.
The New Zealand beekeeping
industry has been hit hard by the
parasitic varroa mite since 2000,
and American foulbrood.
And there are other threats on
Varroa is showing signs of
resistance to synthetic pyrethroid
Miticide treatments cost about
$50 per hive annually and mean
our industry has mostly lost its
Our isolation has afforded some
protection from many threats.
To survive, our bees need
clever science, smart growers and
farmers, and strong biosecurity,
Mr Paul says.
So if you re tempted to sneak in
a jar of honey from overseas think
again, industry insiders say.
Disaster could come in the form
of one contaminated jar, an Asian
bee queen in a container from
Queensland, or a yacht calling in.
The Asian honeybee, which
arrived in Queensland near
Cairns in May 2007, is the latest
tapping on our door with eradi-
cation there now ruled out.
This is the bee-world s version
of a wasp. It not only competes for
floral resources but is highly
aggressive and breeds rapidly,
Mr Hartnell says.
Asian bees will rob honey bee
hives, and if they came across the
Tasman they would have the
potential to threaten native birds
Reports of colony collapse dis-
order in North America and parts
of Europe are causing concern, but
beekeepers association president
Frans Laas says our commercial
bee culture here is different and
may well save us from similar
Educating farmers is important
to help protect bees.
Care must be taken when using
agricultural sprays, particularly
when plants are in flower.
If bees are flying crop or pas-
ture spraying should be left until
dusk. If chilled by irrigation water
they will die. Only irrigate during
the non-flying times of dusk to
Farmers and urban gardeners
are encouraged to plant trees for
Landcare Research has joined
the NBA to launch the Urban
Trees for Bees programme in col-
laboration with the Auckland
Council, the Auckland Beekeepers
Club and the New Zealand branch
of the Oceania Pollinator Initiat-
The plant list we created is an
excellent tool that people can use
to help protect the New Zealand
honey bee in cities and in country
gardens, beekeepers association
spokeswoman Maureen Maxwell
Ms Maxwell started Waimau-
ku s BeesOnline cafe.
Visit www.nba.org.nz or
more information and brochures.
New to Aotearoa: The wool carder bee.
Photo: NIGEL CLUNIE
The wool carder bee is new to
New Zealand -- it arrived here
five years ago.
It may have been been blown
across the Tasman Sea from
Australia, first turning up in
Napier and Nelson in 2006, then
in Auckland the following year.
A native of Europe, northern
Africa and Asia, the wool carder
has also established in the
United States, Canada and
It's about the same size as a
honeybee but looks fatter, is
solitary and highly visible.
The wool carder is furry and
The male bee has a hovering
flight. It is also very territorial
and aggressive towards other
Also known as the leaf-cutting
bee, the wool carder is so
named because nesting females
supposedly use the hairs or wool
from plants to line holes in soil,
wood, buildings or plant stems
like roses, using their mandibles
to ''card'' the fibres into cell
walls. The bees are important
pollinators of many flowers and
crops, and don't live in large
colonies like honey bees.
Studies are under way to
gauge its impact in New
AUCKLAND CITY HARBOUR NEWS, JUNE 17, 2011
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