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Project update 2.3 (October 2012)

Progress during Period Three of Year Two: July 1st 2011 to October 31st 2012

The period from July 1st to October 31st has been exciting because we have discovered many new plant species with huge amounts of pollen for bees. We don’t know the pollen protein content yet (the samples are being sent to the lab) but we found the abundance of pollen on some of these trees to be huge. We discovered these new pollen-bearing plants at Eastwoodhill Arboretum in Gisborne where we have been working since early spring. Eastwoodhill Arboretum, where Douglas Cook, the founder, started farming and planting trees in 1910 has grown into what is now the National Arboretum of New Zealand with 3500 species and cultivars of trees and shrubs from all around the world. In Eastwoodhill Arboretum, we found bees collecting pollen from at least six plant species that are uncommon in New Zealand as bee forage and two species that are not on the International Bee Plant List (IBPR 1981). These exotic plants are flowering during October. If their protein content is high and we can establish that they are unlikely to become weeds then we will certainly be recommending them to farmers and public to plant for bee nourishment. During this period 3 of year 2, we have collected pollen samples from 59 plant species belonging to 32 genera from Eastwoodhill Arboretum; 11 plant species from farms, gardens and pastures; and 4 species from roadsides in the Gisborne area. This totals 74 species collected in Gisborne.

We visited farmers in the Gisborne area to talk about pollen dearth problems in spring and autumn. There is a serious dearth of pollen-bearing plants on the farms and on public lands in October, just after the willows finish and before the clover starts, but we don’t see this type of pollen dearth at Eastwoodhill Arboretum. We conclude that pollen dearth can be remedied. There are lots of plant species available that will provide abundant pollen and once we get the lab results back on the protein content, we will present the list of species that are richest in protein for bees.

Our four demonstration farms are in progress. Two arable farms have been planted in the Canterbury area. Many lessons were learned while establishing these plantations for the purpose of supporting permanent residential apiaries. In Gisborne we planted trees for bees on a sheep and beef farm and are in the process of planting trees for bees on a mixed farm with orchards.

One nursery has taken up the call to encourage people to plant bee plants in their gardens and have developed a program for promoting bee plants in Canterbury this spring. Many beekeepers have been negotiating with their associated farmers to become “Bee Friendly Farms” by planting bee plants so that the farmer is able to obtain more honey bees to pollinate their crops.

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