It’s nearing the end of winter here in New Zealand and there is always enormous pleasure to be had as spring flowers emerge and the fruit and almond trees fill the landscape with their beautiful blossoms.
One of the things I most look forward to is the return of bees to my garden - this year especially, since I’ve recently installed a beehive behind my house in Auckland, and am excited to be finally using what learnt from my father’s beekeeping efforts in my own garden.
As soon as the weather warms up a bit I’m installing some hives here in Wanaka too. It’s all part of my new role as ambassador for New Zealand bees.
What can we do to support bees?
In New Zealand, the varroa mite has virtually wiped out wild bee populations, so beekeeping has become an important way of contributing to the survival of this crucially important insect in our gardens.
The turn of the season heralds the most fertile season for the honeybee. An average hive consists of approximately 25,000 bees in the winter, and swells to over 70,000 bees in the summer months when more nectar becomes available.
A honeybee’s short life is spent foraging for nectar to feed its young. On a single foraging trip it may visit up to 1100 blossoms and it will make about 25 flights each day in a radius of up to 5km from the hive – a total of about 800km over its lifetime. All this to produce half a teaspoon of honey!
Make your garden bee-friendly
Even if you don’t keep bees, there are plenty of ways you can encourage bees into your garden, and support them by providing varied, nectar-rich food sources.
As well as consuming pollen for their protein and vitamins, and nectar for energy, bees also move pollen from one plant to another, and in the process pollinate plants. By designing a bee-friendly garden, you’ll not only support bees, but also grow better crops.
What you can do to support bees and improve your garden:
- Plant wild flowers – different shapes and sizes will attract bees
- Plant generous clusters of the same species to “wow” bees in your garden. Flower patches also attract butterflies!
- Avoid pesticides or use bee friendly spraying practices. See my tips on organic gardening for good natural alternatives that are cheaper and healthier for your family, your pets and the environment.
- Avoid spraying when flowers are in bloom. Spray early morning or at sunset if necessary
- Provide fresh, pesticide free drinking water for bees
- Do not plant banned or controlled weeds (for a list see New Zealand's National Pest Plant Accord)
- Use local and native plants. For a list of plants that are particularly beneficial for bees, see Beneficial Plants for Bees on the website run by the National Beekeepers’ Association of New Zealand
- Plant seasonal flowers to sustain a year-round source of nourishing nectar and pollen
- Plant your flowers in sunny spots with shelter from wind
- Plant bee-friendly plants near to your crops. Companion planting can help you do this with added benefits such as pest control
Cooking with honey – this week's recipe
To celebrate Bee Aware Month I’ll be posting a new honey-inspired recipe on my website every week.
This week it’s my deliciously moist and healthy Carrot Orange Honey Muffins. A handy recipe if you like your muffins hot from the oven, because you can keep the batter in the fridge for several days and cook a few each morning.
National Beekeepers' Association of New Zealand
I’ve joined forces with New Zealand’s National Beekeepers’ Association to work on projects that help promote and protect kiwi honeybees.
Together we hope to spread the message that bees are vitally important and that they need our help to survive.
Bee Aware Month
Bee Aware Month is an annual event to raise awareness about the importance of taking care of our bees in New Zealand.
Find out more about how you can get involved on my partner page.