It was a crisis in the bee-keeping industry that set botanist Linda Newstrom-Lloyd on her path.

Canadian Dr Newstrom-Lloyd was living in Canterbury then, having arrived in 1994 with her Kiwi husband David from the University of California, Berkeley.

In 2009 she was asked by the Federated Farmers Bee Industry Group to find a solution to the "October crash", the problem feeding honey bees in the spring between the willows flowering in early spring and pastoral clover flowering a couple of months later.

Bees are essential to the health of most of New Zealand's primary production. Horticulture, arable and pastoral farming are dependent on bees for pollination and honey production is a big earner.


It didn't take her long to realise the problem in Canterbury was a lack of plant and tree biodiversity to fill the pollen gap.

After that it was an MPI Sustainable Farming Fund grant that set her on the research path that brought her to Hawke's Bay in 2015.

After the death of her husband in 2006 and the Canterbury earthquakes Newstrom-Lloyd packed up her house in Christchurch in 2012 and hit the road in a motor home to do more fieldwork.

She headed for Gisborne and the Eastwoodhill National Arboretum where her research indicated a healthy bee population because the oaks, maples, ash and prunus trees meant a long flowering season with no October crash.

In 2013 Dunedin scientist Dr Angus McPherson joined the team.

Newstrom-Lloyd was the botanist, McPherson the practical farm tree-planting expert.

"I can't do what he does and he can't do what I do so together we are a great team."

If landowners or anyone want to plant trees, whether for erosion control, shade and shelter, amenity or riparian protection then McPherson's role is to suggest trees good for bees in that area to be included.


"We work in with beekeepers who also suggest places that might benefit from our knowledge."

In Hawke's Bay Kintail Honey and Arataki Honey are long-standing pollination providers and honey producers who also support their research.

Part of the problem of bee food supply has been the success of the manuka honey industry.

"We are over-saturated with beehives."

Hawke's Bay's challenge is the expanding fruit industry. There isn't room on orchards to plant the trees they need and the chemicals used on orchards are also likely to harm bees.

Kintail Honey has turned their base at Takapau into a demonstration farm and "we are planting like crazy".

It is one of 26 demonstration farms around the country where the plantings are for the bees.

Well-known Hawke's Bay "tree man" Chris Ryan also knows where many of the good autumn bee plants are. "He showed me five new genera of suitable plants I didn't know about."

The Trees for Bees project is now a charitable trust called the New Zealand Trees for Bees Research Trust.

It is funded by grants and contributions from bee keepers, famers and regional councils.

Its next project is how to better feed bees in autumn to get them through the winter.

"Bees need to be fed like All Blacks in the autumn so they can start work strong and healthy in the spring."

Once suitable plants are identified the next step is to build up enough numbers to make them available through nurseries.

The latest project will involve training those who want to plant for bees, producing training and resources handbooks and developing on-line tools so would-be planters can research what is suitable for their situations.