Simple tips to help bees thrive during Bee Aware Month

Kiwis are being encouraged to care for the country's bee population, with Tuesday marking the start of Bee Aware Month.

The apiculture community and councils around the country will be using the month to raise awareness of the critical role bees play for both the environment and economy.

Products like honey and beeswax bring around $5 billion to the economy each year, and bees play a vital part in biodiversity and pollination.

Charlotte Lee-Smith, from Apiculture New Zealand, says Bee Aware Month is all about "encouraging people to do things to help bees".

"Not everybody needs to be a beekeeper to help bees, there are lots of simple everyday things people can do - both gardeners and non-gardeners - to help bees," Lee-Smith told Dominic George on Magic Talk's Rural Today on Tuesday.

"Some of those things are throwing bee-friendly plants in your garden - which a lot of people already do - also being aware of spraying safely in your garden, or not using sprays in your garden, and also supporting local beekeepers by buying local honey and other bee products, they're all great things people can do."

For those lacking green fingers, Lee-Smith says you can make a difference by taking a more laissez-faire approach to your household chores. 

"If you're not a big fan of gardening, one thing you can do is leave your lawn to grow a little bit longer, just allowing some of those flowering weeds, like clover, to grow - those are really great things for bees. 

"Leaving your lawn a bit gives you a bit of a break and also is great for bees."

It's estimated bees, either directly or indirectly, support a third of everything we eat, meaning they are vitally important to the health of the planet.

Wellington City Councillor Teri O’Neill says ensuring bees thrive is a no-brainer.

"Our native bees are essential in supporting our urban ecology, and they are a remarkably low-cost investment for our growing communities as they contribute so much to our food production systems and medicines too," she says.

"As a proud beekeeper of about 50,000 bees I have first-hand experience in how a little bit of effort goes such a long way with these remarkable creatures."

Lee-Smith says New Zealand is fortunate in that we have a strong bee population, something apiculturists hope to protect. 

"We need good bees to have pollination of horticultural and agricultural crops, also to keep pollinating native plants - we need native bees for that - as well as making honey.

"So they're a really essential part of our economy, our food chain and our environment."