Pollination is the reproductive method used by plants and is required for fruiting to occur and involves pollen being transferred from the stamen of a plant to a stigma of a plant and there are several methods. Some plants self fertilise, others use abiotic methods, such as wind or water dispersion, to spread their pollen to other plants, finally some use a pollinator to transfer the pollen to another plant called biotic pollination.
Biotic pollination involves the pollen attaching itself to the pollinator and relying of it coming into contact with the stigma of another plant. To accomplish this plants use various means of attracting them including sweet scent, brightly coloured petals and nectar.
Bees are major source of biotic pollination having evolved to rely on the nectar produced by the plants for nutrition and are observed to frequent the same type of flower increasing the likelihood of pollination. This has resulted in them becoming a major driver of pollination in many plants reliant on biotic pollination and resulted in farmers who grow plants reliant on them maintaining hives in order to ensure pollination.
The Environment Centre stocks a range of bee support products, specifically for solitary bees including bumble bees.
Colony Collapse Disorder
Colony collapse is characterised by the loss of the worker bees of a hive despite there still being abundant food reserves in the hives and the queen and immature brood (the larval stage of bees) being relatively unaffected, however without any workers the hive is unable to sustain itself and will die (1). It’s been a reported phenomenon for a long time with it being documented as far back as 1869 (2) with feral populations of bees drastically declining from 1972-2006 (3). However it was not widely reported as a problem until the winter of 2006-2007 when large number of commercial hives were lost with operators reporting 30-90% of hives lost in some parts of the world (1).
The causes of colony collapse are unknown with it being believed to be a result of many varied stresses such as increased levels of pesticides, parasites, beekeeping practices (e.g. use of antibiotics and trucking of hives by operators), decreasing queen quality as a side effect of selective breeding, and immunodeficiency. It is currently thought that each individual stressor is insufficient but common stresses, such as pesticides, lead to immunodeficiency causing the population to become vulnerable to infections and parasites such as the varroa mite (4).
While staple foods like rice and grains largely rely on abiotic (eg wind) methods of pollination many of the foods we eat are reliant on bees to pollinate them quickly ensuring production of a healthy fruit such as apples, kiwifruit and almonds. Many farmers rely on renting commercial hives that act as pollinators during the initial window when the plants flower to ensure rapid pollination and reduce risk of harm from weather, pests and disease. The loss of hives increases the cost to farmers as either rental of hives costs more or reduces the production of fruit driving up the price of foods that use bees as their primary pollinator.
As with other countries the loss of bees will have a major impact on New Zealand with the bee assisted production being worth an estimated $5.1 billion to the New Zealand economy. In our agricultural industry much of the produce, such as apple and kiwifruit, is a direct result of pollination and indirect effects such as the estimated $1.5 billion worth of dairy products gained from clover pollination (5). Hawkes Bay’s reliance on these sectors means this presents a greater threat to us than many other regions.
In New Zealand there is a lack of wild bee hives due them no longer being able to easily survive without management. We can help combat this problem by making our gardens more hospitable to them. Not using sprays on your garden, having nectar producing plants, mowing the lawn less and offering to host a hive can all help with the problem.
To learn more or to support bees in your area, click on the pictures: