Kiwi beekeepers get a buzz from World Bee Day

Around the world, the numbers of bees and other pollinators are declining quickly.
Around the world, the numbers of bees and other pollinators are declining quickly. Photo credit: Getty

Kiwis are being urged to show their support for honey bees and beekeepers as the world celebrates World Bee Day on Wednesday.

May 20 was officially named World Bee Day in 2018 by the United Nations in a bid to raise awareness for the role bees play in keeping the planet healthy.

The date was chosen to commemorate the birthday of Slovenian apiculture pioneer Anton Janša, who was born in 1734.

Around the world, the numbers of bees and other pollinators are declining quickly. According to the UN's Food and Agricultural Organization, three out of four crops across the globe that produce fruit or seeds for human use depend on pollinators, at least in part. That means protecting bees is crucial not just for the environment but for people too.

Despite bee populations being in decline in many countries, Apiculture New Zealand's chief executive Karin Kos says here our honey bee population is healthy and continuing to grow.

New Zealand is rated seventh in the world for bee population growth over a decade, according to the UN's Food and Agricultural Organization.

However, Kos says since the arrival of the varroa mite in New Zealand in 2000, the local honey bee population now depends on human help for survival.

"Without regular treatment and monitoring, our bees would be in serious trouble," says Kos.

To keep populations healthy, Kos says beekeepers need to actively monitor and treat for bee pests as well as making sure bees get enough nutrition and stay safe and warm.

"They may be the world’s smallest livestock, but bees still need a lot of care," she says. "Which is why beekeepers are so busy, much of the time."

To help support bees, Kos recommends people plant bee-friendly plants in their gardens, especially those that bloom in autumn or early spring when bees often struggle to find food.

"If people use pesticides, they need to spray when bees are not active; in early morning or late evening and never when flowers are in bloom."

She also encourages people to try their local honey to support beekeepers.

"We have many wonderful, unique types of honey that honey-lovers are only just discovering like rātā, kāmahi, South Island honeydew and rewarewa,” says Kos.  

"I encourage people to check their local stores or find a local beekeeper and discover what their regional honey tastes like, as it varies so much across New Zealand."