September is Bee Aware Month – a month fully dedicated to celebrating bees! 

Apiculture New Zealand has been running Bee Aware Month for eight years and this year the focus is bee health and education on how we can help to protect New Zealand’s bee population. Fortunately, New Zealand has a thriving bee population, but along with the rest of the world, our bees face an increasing number of threats, such as diseases, pests, pesticides, starvation and overstocking.

We need bees

New Zealand needs bees, and bees need our help to ensure they continue to do their important work. Not only does the honey bee provide us with a great source of natural food, bees are responsible for the pollination of approximately one third of the food we eat – 90 per cent of fruit trees are pollinated by bees. Bees help with nitrogen regeneration in clover pastures and the NZ vegetation that helps prevent soil erosion.

Protecting bee health is important – how we can all help

Bees are losing habitat all around the world due to intensive monoculture-based farming practices, pristine green (but flower-barren) sprawling lawns and from the destruction of native bush.

Bees need healthy, pesticide and herbicide free flowers.

honey-bee-in-flightBee food

Bees will forage on flowers and other bee-friendly plants for nectar and pollen, which provide carbohydrates and protein for growth and energy. Well-nourished bees are more capable of fending off disease and parasites. Just planting a few flowers in your garden, pots or planters and leaving the flowers on your lawn will help provide bees with food.

Avoid treating your flowers with chemicals

Chemicals can leach into pollen and negatively affect bee health. If you do need to spray, do not do so when plants are in flower or when bees are present. It is also best to spray early in the morning or at sunset.

Bees get thirsty

If you have a lot of bees coming to your lovely garden of native plants, wildflowers, flower-filled lawn and flowering herbs, shout them a drink. A bird bath with some stones in it for them to crawl on does the trick, or fill a saucepan of water and put pebbles or twigs in the water for bees to rest on while they drink. They will appreciate it!

Bees are your friends

Bees will avoid stinging if they can and try and warn an intruder rather than sting. Honey bees are vegetarians, you are not tasty! Stay still and calm if a bee is around you or lands on you. Many bees will land on you and sniff you out. They can smell the pheromones that come with fear and anger and they can be a trigger for them to sting you. Don’t stand in front of a hive or on a bee pathway to a concentration of flowers. Bees are busy running back and forth, and if you don’t get in their way, they won’t be in yours.

Bee a local

The honey you buy directly sends a positive message to beekeepers. So, for your own personal health, and the NZ bee health, buy local, raw honey and beeswax products. As beekeepers, we use products from our hives to create soaps, lotions, beewraps and beeswax candles. Remember, if it doesn’t say “raw honey” and you can’t read in the description that it’s untreated, don’t buy it. Here’s an idea: go to one of our Auckland markets and bee friendly. You can help save the bees by supporting a beekeeper in your area. Like all bee keepers, we work hard to nurture our bees.