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Project update 2.2 (June 2012)

Progress during Period Two of Year Two: March 1st 2011 to June 30th 2012

In this period from March to June, we focused on the field work to collect autumn and winter pollen during this most critical pollen dearth time. The bees need good pollen sources because the brood at this time will develop into the adults that have to sustain the hive population all winter long. So few plants were flowering during this period that it was very difficult to find bees foraging on the flowers. To verify that the bees were actually still collecting pollen at this time, we switched our pollen collecting strategy to capture bees with pollen loads at the hive entrance. These results show that some bees are still collecting pollen but few different colors of pollen are coming in compared to the late spring. We also continued with pollen traps on the hives at five apiary sites in mid-Canterbury and now have monthly pollen trap samples for 9 nine months.

We submitted another 164 pollen samples to GNS Science Isotope Labs to Dr. Karyne Rogers for protein analysis. These are in the queue and will be run soon. We received our results from the previous 84 samples submitted last period. Of these the four native species showed great protein content from 20% up to 37%. The other exotic species have a range from 15 % up to 35% protein. We found that many garden plants are highly attractive to bees and also have high protein content such as California Lilac, Camellias, and Peonies to mention only a few. These results will be published shortly once all the pollen identifications are confirmed. For each sample for protein we have a microscope slide voucher of pollen that has been prepared by acetolysis (chemical clearing) and checked by Dr. Ian Raine at GNS Science for purity and identification. We had a few surprises in our pollen color results and presented these in a poster on “Pollen Colour, Purity and Identification” at the Federated Farmers Bees conference at the end of May in Twizel and at the National Beekeeper’s Association conference at the end of June in Napier. This poster is available on request (treesforbees@gmail.com) and will be put up on our new website that is now under development.

The most promising progress during this period has been getting the plants into the ground on farms. The purpose of our four demonstration farms is to show that more flowers at the right times will result in more bee productivity with bigger bee populations and the potential for the bees to reside all year on the farm. More bees will be a great benefit to the farmers when they need pollination for their crops or pastures. The sheep and beef demonstration farm in Gisborne is 90% all planted now thanks to hard work by the Gisborne Trees for Bees team and the farmer. We have organized demonstration farms with two arable farmers in Rakaia and are currently finalizing the planting lists. These Canterbury farms are challenging because of the more severe climate than found on the North Island. Our fourth farm is still being organized.

Many more farmers and beekeepers are deciding to plant Trees for Bees. We have six new farms added to the list of farms that are participating in the research. Our dissemination of information is expanding with many requests for our brochures and Bee Plant Guides. We presented talks at the Selwyn Rural Women’s Club, the Federated Farmers Bees Conference, the National Beekeeper’s Association Conference and the New Zealand Pollination Seminar by Plant and Food Research. We have been on Rob’s Country (CTV) for a second time and several articles have come out about Trees for Bees.