Tag Archives: New Zealand

Spring Is Coming!

It’s been so cold. But people have been planting on the zigzag: fruit trees and natives. This is my contribution, a Royal Rosa apricot from Waimea Nurseries. I planted it at the edge of one of our hugelkulturs, also known as swales, mounds of rotting wood.

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If you look carefully, you will see borage, calendula, lavender

The Royal Rosa is ‘a very early, freestone selection with firm tasty gold flesh, yellow skin with a red blush. A disease hardy, low chill selection recommended for home gardens throughout New Zealand.’ And its fruit will look like this.

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And of course the Royal Rosa will flower, for the bees. I chose an early ripening one to suit the arc of the hillside’s summer sun.

A little further up the hill are some feijoas and three plums, from the Wellington City Council’s Community Fruit Tree programme, planted by our lovely neighbour. Here are two of the plums.

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And yesterday the sun shone and I saw a bumble bee on a calendula. So I worried about the next burst of the council’s Roundup spraying, because Roundup harms bees, as reported here.

I also read  another new report, about how Roundup harms people (see Bibliography page for more research about this)–

Many neurological diseases, including autism, depression, dementia, anxiety disorder and Parkinson’s disease, are associated with abnormal sleep patterns, which are directly linked to pineal gland dysfunction. The pineal gland is highly susceptible to environmental toxicants. Two pervasive substances in modern industrialized nations are aluminum and glyphosate, the active ingredient in the herbicide, Roundup®. In this paper, we show how these two toxicants work synergistically to induce neurological damage.

But then I read, in the council’s response to submissions to its latest Suburban Reserves Management Plan that–

We have just finalised beekeeping guidelines for public land and consider ourselves a bee friendly city.

As fruit trees, vegetable and bee-loved plants proliferate, especially on public reserves like our zigzag,  if the council is committed to being a bee-friendly city, it will have to stop using Roundup and other poisons. Whew and Yay.

In the meantime, in an exciting initiative that supports pollinators, at Bee Gap,  a New Zealand-based  programme to raise awareness and assist gardeners to encourage and add pollinators to their gardens. They’re keen to encourage native bees, bumble bees and leaf cutter bees and have some products for us to use at home.

And on their Facebook page,  the first contemporary image I’ve seen of bees in trees in New Zealand–

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Bees in a tree, New Zealand

The woman who posted it said it’s near New Plymouth–

This natural beehive in a 60ft tree is massive. I had driven past this so many times and didn’t even know it was there. A work mate pointed it out to me. I’m 5′ and could probably fit inside it.

And note, these bees are utterly thriving. It can be done. And this year I hope to have some bees in a tree myself. As well as many flowers for them.

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Thank You, Bee-Lovers on Social Media!

I saw a pale honey bee on the lavender. Then another. Thin. Then a bumble. And then something new, on the calendula. So I tweeted. And loved this conversation that followed, with someone who was new to me–

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And more or less at the same time, this conversation on Instagram– which I’ve just joined – with someone else I’d never heard of before.

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And as I enjoyed these interchanges I thought of the NZ Beekeepers Forum, which I joined a while back. And asked there. And trusted a contributor’s precise response.

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I feel very grateful to the apps and forums available online and to the people who use them. This was so useful.

I have another eristalis tenax in the garden today. And because it’s a beneficial pollinator I welcome it.

A Woman Beekeeper From the 1930s

Wild swarm in New Zealand photo: Te Ara
Wild swarm in New Zealand tree (photo: Te Ara The Encyclopedia of New Zealand)

It’s cold. It’s wet. So I’m reading instead of gardening. At the moment, the complete works of Robin Hyde (1906-1939), an extraordinary and prolific New Zealand writer. Her work enchants me, all of it.

In Journalese (1934), a light-hearted survey of her experiences as a journalist – I think she’d have delighted in social media – she documents a bee experience that wouldn’t happen now. Couldn’t. The ancient Ford? Maybe. But Italian Blacks? German Browns? Wild bees? I don’t think so.

It was in Christchurch, and by accident, that I found out I was bee-immune (i.e., proof against all stings.) The path of duty led to a woman bee farmer, her abode at Rangiora. Would she give me a story about the beauty of bee-farming? She would do more: she whisked me into an ancient Ford, and drove at an astonishing speed in the direction of the farm itself. It was in a haunted orchard. Under the desolate old trees which dropped their blossom unheeded on the grass, Italian Blacks and German Browns, an ever-dancing, ever-moving Gulf Stream of bees, guarded the hive more efficiently than any ghost could do.

Afraid of bees? She treated them with a motherly mixture of severity and contempt. And to my own amazement, I found myself draped in an inadequate sort of bee-veil, but with no gloves or other weapons of defence, brushing bees from great golden combs with a macrocarpa bough. The bees took no notice. Then, unsealing the combs, straining the honey, seeing it come up clear and dark gold….it was all rather delightful, and I still think that to retire and become a bee farmer is a quite dignified outlet for any woman’s energies. I carried home a vasty golden comb. This was awkward. It occupied practically all the shelf space in my tiny flat, and eat as I would, bestow it on my neighbours as I might, I couldn’t keep up with its melting moments. Finally the horrid remains, done up with as much care as an inconvenient corpse, found their way into the dustman’s tender care.

Manuka honey…dark, sweet, gathered by the droning wild bees whose nests are high up in rimu or manuka…is the best of all. You can smell Australia in scented boronia, the little brown-cupped sort that grows wild. You can taste the New Zealand bush in manuka honey. They collect it and use it at Chateau Tongariro, which is an unusually discerning sort of thing for any Government enterprise (pp109-110).

I’m looking out for more on the history of women beekeepers in New Zealand.

Robin Hyde
Robin Hyde

Heartbreak

1.

When I woke up the other morning the bee box was gone.

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A couple of bees remained nearby. I wondered, ‘Will they fly across town to find the others’?

The garden was a little quieter, all day. But it was more than sound. For a few days the bee box and its occupants had added a very special feeling.

That evening, half a dozen bees flew into the kitchen, its door near where I’d stood to watch them move around their box. I helped them to leave the kitchen. Gently. One was very feisty. The others were more passive. One seemed dazed.

Then, as night fell, I looked up. And saw a tiny bee huddle, near where the base of the box used to be.

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I texted the neighbour. Who collected them to take to the rest of the hive, in the morning (with a dose of honey).

That was my little heartbreak for this week. I miss those bees.

But there’s a much larger heartbreak. The neonics story.

2.

It’s taking me longer than I imagined it would to research the nasty chemicals that harm bees– neonicotinoids, or neonics, which I find easier to pronounce and to spell. But it’s almost Labour Weekend  in New Zealand, that big holiday weekend when we all PLANT. So here’s some brief neonics info, for Australasians who visit plant shops this weekend.

Dave Goulson, the scientist who wrote A Sting in The Tale about bumblebees, tweeted this the other day–

A single seed

And this, a wider view of how neonics affect the environment around them–

Into soil etc

Neonics harm bees in various ways, when they go into soil and last for ages and when they go into crops. That little 1% in the dust, I’ve read, kills heaps of bees.

And neoniced flowers also harm bees, even flowers of otherwise beneficial bee plants, flowers that they love. Here’s a view of how neonics move into a single plant with a flower that feeds bees, from a recently released Friends of the Earth report

poster neonics

In the words of the report, this is how the neonics work–

Nurseries commonly apply systemic pesticides as soil injections, granular or liquid soil treatments, foliar sprays (applied to leaves), and seed treatments. Water-soluble pesticides are readily absorbed by plant roots and transported systemically in the plant’s vascular system to other portions of the plant, including roots, pollen and nectar, leaves, stems, and fruit.This systemic action results in the exposure of beneficial, non-target insects such as bees to potentially lethal doses of these pesticides.

Neonics aren’t regulated in New Zealand and I haven’t so far found research about their use here. But when I learned that many seeds are coated with neonics, I thought my garden was safe because I save and exchange seeds and buy them from the Koanga Institute and Kings Seeds and don’t use sprays. I don’t know about other branded seeds on sale at garden centres though. I don’t know about the plants and other products on sale, either.

But the Friends of the Earth research found that 51% of plants sold to consumers at a range of garden centres across the United States Canada were contaminated with neonics–

The high percentage of contaminated plants…and their neonicotinoid concentrations suggest that this problem is widespread, and that many home gardens have likely become a source of exposure for bees. The results indicate that neonicotinoids occur in both flowers and in stems and leaves, with some samples having higher concentrations in flowers than greenery and other samples showing the reverse.

So what can we do this weekend to protect bees? It’s obvious of course. We can ask at our garden centres if their plants or the soil they’ve been raised in have been treated with–

acetamiprid

clothiandin

dinotefuran

imidacloprid (Consumer* names Yates’ Confidor as a product that includes imidacloprid )

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thiacloprid

thiamethoxam

We can look on the labels of the other garden and domestic products we buy (some might be non-garden products like ant killer), for –

acetamiprid

clothiandin

dinotefuran

imidacloprid

thiacloprid

thiamethoxam

(I’m repeating here, planning to make a little song to help me remember the words.)

And we can refuse to buy any seed plant or product that may place our bees at risk.

If you live in Wellington and want some safe bee-loved plants, let me know in the comments and I can provide you with some from my garden, where I’m raising quantities to give away this year, to explore growing them as a business.

And here’s another poster from Friends of the Earth, in case you’d like to print it out for your fridge–

 

Bee safe gardening tips

 

*GARDEN CENTRE BUYERS PLEASE BE AWARE OF THESE TOXIC-TO-BEES PRODUCTS

The Consumer article also refers to some other products. Checking them one by one, in case neonics in New Zealand had different names than I was familiar with, I found these toxic-to-bees products, which may or may not be neonic–

Diazinon

Diazinon, according to the New Zealand Journal of Agricultural Research, is highly toxic to bees. It is in these products–

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Carbaryl

Carbaryl, according to the University of California at Davis, is also toxic to bees. Consumer names this product as containing Carbaryl (it is also toxic to humans and in New Zealand only ‘approved handlers’ will be able to apply it after July 2015)–

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Acephate

Cornell University research shows that Acephate is toxic to bees. Consumer lists these products as containing Acephate–
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More toxic-to-bees info to come, I’m sure. Please let me know if you have any additions! That’s going to be a multi-verse song, I reckon!