Bee Aware Month: How to Support the Declining Bee Population

5 August 2013

Bees are dying all over the world in huge numbers - numbers which are scary because we depend on bees for so much. In New Zealand bees are instrumental in approximately one third of our food and a large portion of our economy.

If we want a flourishing garden or to find a wide range of food at the store, we need these little guys.

Bee Aware Month is a great time to share tips on how you can support local bees for a healthy ecosystem.


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Declining Bee Population

No-one has pin-pointed the exact cause of the numerous bee deaths (AKA Colony Collapse Disorder), but chemical-heavy commercial farming, diminishing food sources, and mites and disease are all making the world a harder place for bees to thrive. Their numbers are dropping alarmingly and we need to take action if we are to stop this worrying trend.


Planting Food for Bees

Simple but true, our Kiwi bees need more food.  Every plant makes a difference whether it's in your garden or in a pot on the deck of your apartment, so make the most of Spring being just around the corner.  Bees will especially appreciate plants such as:

  • Stone fruit trees (bonus: you get apricots, nectarines and more!)
  • Clovers
  • Sunflowers
  • Brassicas
  • Most of your herb garden including basil, rosemary, mint, thyme and of course lavender. 

Pest Control That Doesn't Kill Bees

Pesticides are a huge threat to bees, so much so that the European Union has started banning several key chemical components of mainstream pesticides.   Here in New Zealand Placemakers and The Warehouse have announced they'll stop selling products with the notorious neonicotinoids.

In your garden go organic with natural methods, such as:

  • Fabric covers.  Garden stores sell light fabric you can drape over germinating seeds and seedlings which let light and water in but keep many pests out while the plants grow stronger. 
  • Hand-picking.  Get up close and personal with pests by picking them off your plants in the morning or evening. 
  • Make your garden a fortress!  Every long-term gardener has their favourite tricks and traps.  Try sinking two thirds of a toilet-paper cardboard roll into the soil around seedlings to keep away underground nasties, or putting half oranges upside-down beside slug-ridden plants to trap them overnight, or leaving bowls of beer in the garden to lure and drown insects.  
  • Attract friendly insects to do the work for you.  The heroes of natural pest control are surely ladybirds, keeping aphids at bay, eating larvae of other pests and even snacking on powdery mildew.  They are so effective that the largest mall in America just released 72,000 of them inside their giant complex to deal with aphids on pot plants.  Attract them by planting fennel, scented geraniums, dill, and leaving some dandelions in your lawn (if they don't annoy you too much!)  You can also make a ladybird feeder by suspending six inches of small tubing horizontally from a tree and popping a few raisins in there.  It's like a picnic in a tunnel for them, apparently!

We have many keen organic gardeners working in our stores, pop in and ask their advice.

Keeping Bees at Home

Recently our driver was delivering to an Online Store customer and had the special treat of being shown a backyard hive and coming away with a jar of fresh honey!  The National Beekeepers' Association offers advice and support to around two hundred Wellington beekeepers, and you could join them.

Support Bee-Friendly Products

Our purchasing decisions carry huge weight in our society because businesses and governments listen to the flow of money.  We have the power to show them we do not support the use of commercial chemicals which kill bees by the thousands, but we do support organic farmers who employ safer methods and have drastically less effect on bees.  Enjoy seasonal, organic produce and you're helping the bees too.

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