Dearth of bees worries gardener

JILL GALLOWAY
Last updated 12:00 20/12/2012
Marshall Coley
MURRAY WILSON/Fairfax NZ
CAUSE FOR CONCERN: Marshall Coley says flowers are falling off his beans because they haven't been pollinated and fruit trees are also suffering because of the lack of honey bees.

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A keen gardener at Ashhurst is worried there are no honey bees pollinating his vegetables and flowers and says he hasn't seen one this year.

Marshall Coley said there had been a few bumblebees, but the flowers on his beans were falling off through lack of pollination.

"I've got 2-metre-high runner beans and there are no bees. Usually they'd be covered with honey bees. Not this season."

The Palmerston North City Council allows beehives to be kept in Ashhurst.

But Mr Coley said only self-pollinating plants had fruit on them this year.

He said his daughter's satsuma plum tree in Ashhurst, which had had buckets of plums last year, had just one plum on it this year.

He said that even on very fine days there were no honey bees working on his vegetables or flowers such as salvia, bush daisies and roses, where they would usually be humming.

"I have an organic garden, so I don't use sprays poisonous to bees."

Associate Professor Alastair Robertson, from Massey University's Institute of Natural Resources, said commercial beehives were shifted around all the time, and feral bees used to fill in the gaps.

He said that could be the reason there were few bees in some areas.

"Bees in urban situations have declined as the varroa mite wiped out wild colonies."

Prof Robertson said managed hives had anti-varroa strips inside by the larvae.

Varroa mite arrived in New Zealand in 2000 and spread throughout the country over the next few years.

Honey bees pollinate most fruit trees, and many vegetables. They also work on pasture and crops.

Federated Farmers bees chairman John Hartnell said without the honey bee, two-thirds of the food we took for granted would almost vanish, making life as we knew it impossible.

"The reality is that no bees means no food and no people.

"That's no joke - bees make civilisation possible," Mr Hartnell said.

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- Manawatu Standard

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