2010-07-22

Get ready to celebrate the bee

12mm long Apis mellifera, Apis mellifera flying back to its hive carrying pollen in a pollen basket. Pictured in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on a private facility.
Image Credit: Muhammad Mahdi Karim (www.micro2macro.net
Sourced: Wikimedia

Federated Farmers is getting ready to celebrate the many positive attributes of the honey bee, as Bee Week 2010 rolls around next week.

“Bee Week is all about celebrating the value that the honey bee brings to the New Zealand economy and that’s not only the hive products, honey and beeswax.” says John Hartnell, Federated Farmers Bees Industry group spokesperson.

“Bees play a huge role in the agricultural sector through the pollination of kiwifruit, pip fruit and the export vegetable seed. But by far their biggest contribution is to the meat and wool industry through the pollination of clover based pasture for nitrogen fixation in the soil.

“Without the bee our pastoral farmers, particularly in high country regions, would be forced to spread larger volumes of nitrogen based fertilisers to create good growing conditions annually. The bee has been doing this for free for over a hundred years.

“It’s estimated that New Zealand’s economy receives direct benefits to the value of $100 million per year from bee hive products. But the indirect benefit, through pollination services is around a massive $10 billion annually.

“Like Einstein said, 'if the bee disappeared off the face of the earth, then man would have only four years of life left’.

“But it’s not all rose coloured glasses in the bee industry. Bee Week is also about identifying issues facing the industry, for example the varroa mite that came here in 2000.

“This mite has now spread as far south as Wanaka and it is expected to be on the outskirts of northern Southland by the spring. It poses a massive threat because without human intervention, a hive infected by varroa will die out completely.

“To prevent varroa infecting a hive, bee keepers now have an extra cost of $50 per year per hive for the chemicals, labour and transport costs, Sadly this cost has become a fixed overhead that never goes away.

“Another killer blow is the likelihood that Australian honey will be approved for entry into New Zealand commencing in 2011. Devastating news for our industry. Australia has a bee brood disease that is not currently in New Zealand and we want to keep it that way.

“The spores of the European Foulbrood disease, can be transported in honey and would be a knockout blow for many beekeepers.

“Treatment in Australia is with antibiotics. This not something New Zealand beekeepers want to consider, especially as our high valued manuka honey is often eaten as a food product which is beneficial to the consumer’s health and well being. Antibiotic residues in honey won’t make good reading, nor good eating.

“Federated Farmers realises how important the bee is and how important it is that farmers play their part in protecting the bee. That’s why we’ve launched the ‘Trees for Bees’ campaign. Plant a tree for a bee.

“This campaign helps farmers help bees, by outlining bee-friendly trees and shrubs that they can plant in places such as waterways and field edges,” Mr Hartnell concluded.

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