Why are bees important?
Bees are responsible for pollination of approximately one third of the food we eat - and 90 per cent of fruit trees are pollinated by bees. Without bees we would lose a lot of our diverse and rich variety of food.
Imagine a world without strawberries, kiwifruit, apples, nuts, coffee, chocolate or even denim jeans! And that’s only the beginning.
Every third spoonful of food depends on pollination. ”Ending hunger is everyone's responsibility.”
What is happening to our bees?
Honey bees all around the world are in decline because of Varroa mite infestations and other threats. Pesticide misuse is killing bees. Habitat degradation takes away flowers which supply nectar and pollen, their essential food. Bees are now dependent on humans to protect them.
What can you do?
Do not spray when plants are in flower or bees are present. If you need to, spray early morning or at sunset.
Bees get thirsty on their foraging trips so you can provide water for them in your garden, perhaps in a saucer with pebbles or twigs so they have something to stand on and drink. Provide fresh pesticide-free drinking water for bees.
Plant Bee Food:
Plant good nectar and pollen sources in your garden to nourish bees. On one flight from the hive to collect honey, a honey bee will visit between 50 and 100 flowers consuming pollen and nectar! To get more bees in your garden grow more colour and a variety of flowers. Bees love blue and love cluster plants like lavender and rosemary.
Pollen, a powdery dust-like substance, is produced by various flowering plants. Pollen is one of the purest and richest natural foods, containing all of the nutritional requirements of a honey bee: sugar, carbohydrates, protein, enzymes, vitamins and minerals. Nectar is a sweet fluid found in flowers. Honey bees collect nectar and convert it to honey.
Choosing a honey plant
Much depends on where we intend to place our honey plants. In a flowerpot on a balcony, in a small garden, in a field or even a public area. There are a great many bee-friendly plants to choose from that are suitable for even a flowerpot, both herbs and aromatic plants. Examples are basil, thyme, lemon balm, short stem sunflowers, coneflowers and many more.
When we have a large area available, we can also decide to plant a bee-friendly tree, such as wild cherry, chestnut, maple or lime. In a garden we can plant some shrubs – roses, for example – in addition to herbs and aromatic plants. This will make the garden a rich pasture for many pollinators. There are also many options for planting honey plants in a field, such as sunflowers, pumpkins, buckwheat, poppies, oilseed rape, heliotropes or clover.
Bee-friendly kitchen and herb plants
- Basil (Ocimum basilicum)
- Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)
- Cucumber, melon (Cucumis spp.)
- Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea)
- Pot marigold (Calendula officinalis)
- Sage (Salvia officinalis)
- Squash, pumpkin (Cucurbita spp.)
- Sunflower (Helianthus annuus)
- Sweetcorn (Zea mays)
Trees, shrubs and climbers
- Apple (Malus spp.)
- Bay laurel (Laurus nobilis)
- Kiwifruit (Actinidia deliciosa)
- Lavender (Lavandula spp.)
- Lemon, orange, grapefruit (Citrus spp.)
- Pear (Pyrus spp.)
- Plum, peach (Prunus spp.)
- Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Be sure to select cultivars that attract bees:
- Select “single” flowers not “doubles” or “triples”
- Choose simple traditional flowers not highly modified flowers
- Garden catalogues often mark which cultivars attract bees
Bee-friendly ornamental flowers & plants
- Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera)
- Cornflower (Centaurea spp.)
- Hollyhock (Alcea spp.)
- Michaelmas daisy (Aster novae-angliae)
- Penstemon (Penstemon spp.)
- Phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia)
- Salvia (Salvia spp.)
- Sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima)
- Zinnia (Zinnia spp.)
Trees, shrubs and climbers
- Australian gum (Eucalyptus spp.), wattles (Acacia spp.) and Banksia (Banksia spp.)
- Bottlebrush (Callistemon spp.)
- Cabbage tree (Cordyline australis) *
- Camellia (Camellia spp. – single flowers only)
- Harakeke, NZ Flax (Phormium tenax/cookianum) *
- Koromiko (Hebe stricta/salicifolia) *
- Maple (Acer spp.)
- Michelia (Michelia spp.)
- NZ jasmine (Parsonsia heterophylla) *
- NZ Lacebark (Hoheria populnea/sexstylosa/angustifolia) *
- Oak (Quercus spp.)
- Pohutukawa/Rata (Metrosideros spp.) *
- Putaputaweta (Carpodetus serratus) *
- Rengarenga (Arthropodium cirratum) *
- Rewarewa (Knightia excelsa) *
- Tarata, kohuhu, karo (Pittosporum spp.) *
- Three/Five finger (Pseudopanax colensoi/arboreum) *
- Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera)
- Wisteria (Wisteria sinensis)
*indicates NZ native plant species; spp. = species
Planting for bees
Plant in generous clusters of the same species for wow factor and bee appeal. Large clusters of each species will attract bees into your garden.
Plant flowers for each season to produce a steady source of nectar and pollen all year round sustains bees
Info courtesy of Apiculture NZ and www.treesforbeesnz.org