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Project update 1.1 (February 2011)

Progress during Period One of Year One: November 1, 2011 to February 28, 2011.

We expanded and updated our preliminary list of plant species in preparation for the June beekeeper survey and are continuing to enter this data into the Trees for Bees database. The database holds all the information about the plants (e.g., plant traits, flowering times, pollen protein content, multipurpose uses for farmers, councils and public etc.). The database will be used to sort and rank the plants according whatever criteria are most important to the user. We have added crop plants including tree crops from the Tree Crop Association and other new plants derived from our literature search. We include herbs, shrubs and trees in the lists. We are preparing this new plant list for the upcoming Beekeeper survey in June when we will be asking beekeepers to rank the flowers in terms of how much the bees are attracted to and use the flowers. The bee’s preference for the flower will be weighted heavily in the ultimate Bee Plant lists that we will produce which will also be based on pollen protein content and general usefulness of the plant to farmers.

We practiced different methods to collect pollen for protein content analysis and found that we need to take advantage of several methods depending on the logistics and labor intensiveness for each plant species because the methods answer different questions about bee forage plants. We obtained samples of hive trapped pollen from 3 hives each at 3 apiaries and will be continuing the hive trap collections in Canterbury and Gisborne. The hive trap method shows what pollen the bees are favoring at an apiary site. We also collected pollen directly from bees in flowers of native broom and directly from the flower’s anthers of native flax. Other plant species, like cabbage, proved to be difficult to extract pollen directly. These direct methods have allowed us to capture data from plants that are not necessarily found at an apiary site but may prove to be valuable for planting up on farms to support bees if the protein content in the pollen is high and the bees are attracted to collecting pollen from these flowers. Such plants may be under-utilized and could be beneficial to bee forage planting programs.

We disseminated information about the Trees for Bees program during November 2010 to take advantage of the Canterbury, Nelson, and Amberly A&P shows. We shared booths with beekeeper exhibitors and distributed thousands of brochures, logo stickers, and Bee Plant Guides to the public to raise awareness of the issues. Also in November we submitted a press release to the media resulting in 12 newspaper, radio and TV articles on Trees for Bees including an interview of Ross Little, chair of the Bee Friendly Farming Group (BFFG), in Straight Furrows November 2010. We published a popular article on bees in the December 2010 issue of the Tree Cropper magazine and sent out materials as requested by the Tauranga A&P show in January 2011.