Sam Judd

Comment on the environment from nzherald.co.nz columnist Sam Judd

Sam Judd: Last dance of the bees

The humble honeybee needs your help. Photo / Thinkstock
The humble honeybee needs your help. Photo / Thinkstock

Next time you're out enjoying the garden or a blueberry smoothie, spare a thought for the workforce behind these simple pleasures.

They may be feared for their stings, but the humble bee is crucial to maintaining biodiversity and our export earnings.

This little workforce is in fast decline and their demise will come at a devastating cost to us. Evidence shows that bee populations are collapsing across the world because of environmental stressors such as pesticides and the proliferation of specialised, single crop farms as well as a reduction in nectar and pollen caused by urbanisation. These stressors mean bees get weak or starve, are less able to resist disease and reduce their ability to reproduce.

'Colony collapse disorder' - which has seen the number of beehives in the US drop by a quarter over the last two decades - has resulted in massive increases in the price of commodities that rely on bees.

Some crops, such as blueberries, apples and almonds are 90% pollinated by bees.

So if New Zealand follows world trends and our bees dance for the last time, you might not be enjoying affordable blueberries with your ice-cream next summer.

So how do we reverse the trend? The beautiful, award-winning documentary Queen of the Sun explains that avoiding pesticides, buying organic honey and starting your own beehive will help strengthen our bee population.

Worldwide advocacy to save the bees has created a big trend of new hobbyist and urban beekeepers.

In Auckland, one registered hive is permitted per residence, so why not enjoy the fruits of our hard-working little friends while looking after them too.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

* Urban Trees for Bees was an initiative started by the National Beekeepers' Association and Trees for Bees NZ along with Landcare Research, OPI, Auckland Beekeepers Club and Auckland Council. They have some great tips for helping out our little friends. Click here to download their Urban Trees for Bees brochure.

* How to start your own hive

* Check your local council bylaws

* If you do start your own hive, be sure to register with Assurequality

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