Help picking plants to support bees

Farmers puzzling about the best way to plant trees to keep bees well fed are being given a helping hand.

A free handbook brings together 10 years of research by the New Zealand Trees for Bees Research Trust, and has been released with support from the Ministry for Primary Industries and other funders.

Trust farm planting adviser and trustee Dr Angus McPherson said it was a useful tool for farmers to support bees with on-farm planting.

"The beauty of our approach is that farmers don’t need to set aside land specially for this planting. We show farmers how to incorporate a low-maintenance bee forage planting plan into planting they’re already establishing to increase production and improve their farmland."

Tree planting also provided biodiversity and other environmental benefits, he said.

The handbook has advice and plant lists for different types of tree planting — including riparian protection, land stabilisation, shelterbelts, beekeeper yards, and manuka plantations.

Dr McPherson said the honeybee was the star performer for resilient farms, yet they were facing the threats of pests, disease and pesticides.

He said the best weapon against them was to provide bees with a steady supply of forage to help them stay healthy and strong.

Bees need a wide range of flowering plants in spring and autumn when they are most at risk of pollen and nectar shortages.

Since 2011, the trust planted 75,000 bee forage plants in 32 demonstration farms.

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