One of the commitments in the new Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord is for all dairy farmers to exclude dairy cattle from riparian margins.
Farmers are also encouraged to plant these margins and some regional councils are helping by selling appropriate plants at cost for this purpose.
Winter is the ideal time for planting and Federated Farmers is encouraging farmers (inbetween calvings and educating new heifers on to the milking line) to consider planting bee-friendly plants.
The Bee Industry Group of Federated Farmers (known affectionately as the 'BIG' industry group) is suggesting that, while any bee-friendly plant is great, those plants that flower during the spring and the autumn would be especially welcomed by all bees and apiarists because there is a such shortage of pollen at these times.
Bees require good stores of honey and pollen to get them through the winter and are really dependent on autumn flowering plants to build up their stores in the hive. Trees and shrubs that flower during this period (April, May and June) that may suit riparian margins include golden ake ake and lace bark.
Bees also require early spring (July, August and September) flowering plants. When they first emerge from the hive after winter they need a source of protein from pollen and energy from nectar they can quickly tap into, without going far.
They will spend this early time building their brood numbers up, which is so important for the pollination industry.
Trees that flower during this time include five finger and pittosporum species. While many farms feature willows and clover, plants which flower earlier are appreciated by bees.
Plants that flower after willow and before clover will fill in the pollen supply gap that bees often suffer in October. Examples here are maples, ash and oaks.
In 2009, BIG initiated the Trees for Bees NZ project, which is ongoing and still funded by the Ministry for Primary Industries' Sustainable Farming Fund. This project collated lists of bee-friendly plants suitable at a regional level, which can be downloaded from the Bee Section under the membership section on the Federated Farmers website.
Trees for Bees NZ have demonstration plots on farms in Canterbury and Gisborne. They are developing plantation designs for riparian strips and pond margins to install around the country and will have demonstrations in Canterbury and Hawke's Bay (see www.treesforbeesnz.org).
The potential for dairy farmers to help bees is huge because a 5m strip around an irrigation pond, effluent pond or on the margin of a riparian strip will provide a lot of pollen for bees in areas that are otherwise almost totally devoid of flowers.