Every time we bite into an apple, make a fruit smoothie, or spread some honey on a crumpet, we’re enjoying the hard work of bees.
Bees pollinate and help to grow around 70 percent of the world’s crops. But over the past 10 years there has been a drastic decline in the number of bees on Earth. Research suggests that without bees, food production worldwide could drop by as much as a third, affecting not only human food sources but animal ones as well. Many are concerned that this is an ecological disaster waiting in the wings.
What’s causing bees to die out? There are many reasons but the main culprits appear to be mass monoculture farming, intensive use of toxic pesticides and climate change. Many countries and organisations around the world have begun trying to combat these harmful practices but more research and work needs to be done.
One way humans can help bees right now is to increase the number of hives available and to learn more about the needs of our buzzy little friends.
Z began their efforts to save bees after staff volunteered at Common Unity Project Aotearoa, a charity based in Lower Hutt. Common Unity helps its community through joint sustainability and employment initiatives. One of their projects is Beeple, a collective that trains local dads to become beekeepers. The story of bees is about so much more than honey, says Common Unity founder and Beeple co-ordinator Julia Milne.
“The first thing we teach our Bee Daddies is that bees don’t produce honey for humans. If they’re happy, they produce honey. So it’s about revering and respecting bees for pollination, restoring balance and living alongside them,” says Julia.
To support Beeple, Z has purchased ten hives around Wellington. The hives are placed in local schools and community gardens, giving Wellingtonians a chance to learn more about bees’ contributions to the local ecosystem. With each hive producing at least 10kg of honey each year, there is plenty of honey to feed local children and families through in-school breakfast programmes. Honey is also gifted to community groups who are connected to Z's hives, and the rest is sold to Z staff, with all proceeds going to Common Unity.
“We love that Beeple is helping bees at the same time as helping the community. We’re proud to support Beeple’s efforts to provide training, employment, honey for kids and income for schools,” says Z’s Community Manager, Christine Langdon.
Want to help boost NZ’s bee population? Here are Beeple’s top tips: Bees love a flowering lawn so try not to mow so often, plant lavender, buy local honey, don’t use pesticides, and get involved with your local community garden.