Donation initiates two-pronged approach
A $50,000 donation from a Marlborough beekeeper is to fund a project on eucalypt trees in the district.
Marlborough Gold Honey beekeeper James Jenkins donated the money to the New Zealand Drylands Forestry Initiative, run by Marlborough man Paul Millen.
It will pay for a study next year that will look at the potential for using flowering eucalypts as part of a strategy to provide pollen and nectar to support bees year-round.
The project looks at eucalypts as a source of high-value, durable timber as an alternative to radiata pine that can grow well in mainly eastern dry regions of New Zealand.
It started in Marlborough, and has half its research sites here, but it has grown to include sites in Canterbury, Wairarapa, Hawke's Bay and the central North Island.
Jenkins said he initially backed the project from the timber perspective.
"I am fascinated by the potential of these trees, and the exciting markets and returns to growers.
"But now I realise that they have the potential to provide pollen and nectar in the autumn and winter off-season," Jenkins said.
"For beekeepers this means more beehives can be kept, which will be good for individuals, the region and the country."
He worked with many farmers in Marlborough who were happy to have his hives on their properties and not be paid because they valued the bees for pollinating their crops. One of those properties is owned by Millen.
"The money I would otherwise be paying to these farmers is a significant part of the donation."
Millen said eucalypts had huge potential to be part of the solution to maintaining healthy bee populations in New Zealand.
Many species flower profusely and at times of the year when other species, including manuka, are not flowering. Some of the eucalypts in Marlborough flowered when there was not much other food around for bees, Millen said.
But those times were not when the mainly Australian scientific literature said the trees flowered, so there was a gap in information about New Zealand conditions, which could vary regionally as well.
"James' donation is about securing his future as a beekeeper too," Millen said.
The Marlborough Express