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Project update 1.3 (October 2011)

Progress during Period Three of Year One: July 1st 2011 to October 31st 2011

During this period, July through October, we have maintained a steady program of collecting pollen from flowers and bees in the field. We have conducted field work at over twelve sites including trips to Ashburton, Amberley, Hanmer, and regions in and around Christchurch (Lincoln, Leeston, Coes Ford, Governor’s Bay etc). We greatly appreciate all the help and generosity we have received from many beekeepers and farmers as well as gardeners including Broadfield Garden in Lincoln. Several beekeepers have made considerable contributions by collecting for us pollen from hive traps and bees in the flowers at their apiary sites.

Summary of results for the three pollen collection methods:

  1. bee hive pollen traps: samples from 12 hives with pollen traps
  2. direct from flower: samples from four species with sufficient pollen
  3. bees with full pollen loads while in the flower: 38 collection events from 33 plant species.

The pollen samples are being prepared in the Landcare Research Lab to be sent out for nitrogen analyses which will be conducted by GNS and AQ.labs. We have made microscope slides and herbarium vouchers for each collection event so that positive identifications of all pollen and plant species can be verified.

We are continuing to expand our network of farmers, beekeepers and associations involved in trees on farms. We have started a new collaboration with the New Zealand Farm Forestry Association (See SFF 11/047) to exchange information.

In September we visited our North Island project team members in Waikato and Gisborne to scout out field work sites and potential demonstration farms for next year’s pollen collection work in those two regions.

In general, we are finding that many of the plants listed as good bee plants for pollen on the international Bee Plant list in our database are also found in Canterbury but they are not generally abundant or well known as bee plants in New Zealand. For example some garden plants such as Peony, Michelia, and Camellia have copious very accessible pollen. However, we need to get the protein content results back before we recommend them. We also need to assess their suitability to particular areas on the farm such as around the house in the garden as well as any issues about their usefulness on farms in terms of livestock (Camellia is said to be harmful to livestock) or habitats etc. It may be the case that many plants that bees use are not abundant enough to be noticed and some of these could prove to be excellent farm hedges or specimen trees that could be planted up for bees.