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Project update 3.1 (February 2013)

Progress during Period One of Year Three: March 1st 2012 to February 28th 2013

From November 1st 2012 to February 28th 2013, we focused on finishing the field work and the associated labwork. We finished up the field work at Eastwoodhill Arboretum on November 22nd with a total of 75 species of bee plants collected with pollen samples for nitrogen testing. In this species list we have 10 species that overlap with the collections made in Canterbury the previous year which gives us geographical replicates. When we add in the 60 species collected in Canterbury and subtract the 10 overlapping species, this gives us a total of 125 species for which we have pollen protein results.

The remainder of this period was focused on labwork and database development conducted at Landcare Research and AsureQuality in Lincoln, Canterbury and at GNS Science in Lower Hutt. We have finished processing all of the pollen pellets from the several sources of data from both Canterbury and Gisborne. These represent bee pollen loads from bees visiting the flowers (the best sample for identification of pollen); direct extraction of pollen from flowers that have sufficient pollen for a nitrogen sample (need 5 mg minimum for the test at GNS Science); and also bee pollen loads from bees entering a hive (more difficult to determine the pollen identity but can be the only source of data at times) as well as bee pellets from hive traps (also difficult to identify the pollen but nevertheless useful for the ones we are able to identify).We utilized whichever type of sample collection method suited the circumstances to maximize our capture of bee pellets for nitrogen analysis and optimize our ability to confirm the identifications of the pollen for reporting the protein results. In total we have now collected the following samples:

206 In Flower Honey Bee Pollen Loads
7 In Flower Bumble Bee Pollen Loads
23 Direct Flower Extract Pure Pollen
236 Subtotal
38 Hive Entrance Bee Pollen Loads
617 Hive Trap Pollen Pellets
655 Subtotal
891 Grand Total

We now have the results for the protein content on the most important samples (all of the plant species with In Flower Honey Bee Pollen Loads and Direct Flower Extract of Pure Pollen) and are creating a pollen pellet photo reference collection and a pollen microscope slide reference collection for these samples.

We are now analyzing the total plant species list to evaluate the quality of plant as bee resource according to nitrogen content of the pollen as well as the usefulness of the plant according to many characteristics and flagging those plants that are harmful to bees, humans or other animals. These analyses are based on the Trees for Bees database work that is in progress. We now have over 800 species of bee plants listed from national and international sources and are evaluating them for their presence in New Zealand and usefulness for Trees for Bees NZ purposes. This evaluation includes rankings on pollen and nectar from 14 beekeepers that we surveyed in 2009. When all this data is put together our list will be fairly comprehensive and we will have protein results for many of the bee plants that have not been reported previously.

We have been monitoring our demonstration plots on farms and all the plants are growing well.

For the next period we are heading back to Eastwoodhill Arboretum in Gisborne to capture the data on the autumn and winter bee plants in the arboretum and on the surrounding farms and also conducting some collecting in Canterbury. On April 25th and 26th the Eastwoodhill Arboretum is holding a conference on Trees for Bees that is open to anyone who wishes to learn about bee plants. See the link at www.eastwoodhill.org.nz if you would like to attend.

We welcome any person or group to request information on our Trees for Bees project. Brochures, Bee Plant Guides, and coloring pages can be downloaded from our websites www.treesforbeesnz.org or obtained through the federated farmers www.fedfarm.org.nz/treesforbees. We also have information on plants for gardeners at http://nba.org.nz/about-bees/beneficial-plants-for-bees/urban-trees-for-bees.