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Wednesday, 19 January 2022 07:55

New guide on how to plant for bees

Written by  Peter Burke
Providing bees with a steady supply of forage will help them stay healthy and strong. Providing bees with a steady supply of forage will help them stay healthy and strong.

A handbook offering practical guidance on how to plant strategically to feed bees is now available free to New Zealand farmers.

The handbook - produced by the NZ Trees for Bees Research Trust, with significant financial support from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and other funders - is designed to help farmers incorporate species of plants into their on-farm planting for biodiversity that support bees.

Dr Angus McPherson, Trees for Bees farm planting adviser and trustee, says bees all around the world are facing a number of threats - including pests, disease and pesticides. He says the best weapon against these threats is to provide bees with a steady supply of forage to help them stay healthy and strong.

"That includes ensuring a wide range of flowering plants in spring and autumn when bees are most at risk of pollen and nectar shortages. The beauty of our approach is that farmers don't need to set aside and specially for this planting," he says.

McPherson says the handbook shows farmers how to incorporate a low-maintenance bee forage planting plan into plantings they're already establishing, to increase production and improve their farmland.

The handbook covers ten different types of plantations: riparian protection; land stabilisation; shelterbelts; paddock shade and shelter; native bush biodiversity; roads, avenues and laneways; amenity; edible plantations; apiaries and beekeeper yards; and mānuka plantations. Each plantation type is described with examples, illustrations, advice and plant lists.

"We aim to help build more resilient and sustainable farms by taking the best possible care of our star performer - the honeybee.

"The handbook's principles and guidelines can be adapted to any type of farm, from pastoral to arable and horticultural farms."

McPherson says the same principles can also be applied when deciding what to plant in public parks, on lifestyle blocks and in home gardens.

Steve Penno, MPI's director of investment programmes, says honeybee health is crucial because bees are the foundation of agricultural production in the New Zealand economy.

"Planting essential bee forage as part of farm management will ensure a viable and sustainable future for our bees, beekeepers, and farmers," he says.

Since 2011, Trees for Bees has planted over 75,000 bee forage plants in 32 demonstration farms throughout New Zealand.

The Handbook for Planting Trees for Bees on Farms is available as a free PDF on the Trees for Bees website at treesforbeesnz.org/handbook. Limited softcover print copies are also available.

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