Worldwide Decline in Bees—Is New Zealand Prepared?

January 11, 2011 Updated: October 1, 2015

New Zealand's economy may be more dependent on honeybees than any other country worldwide. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)
New Zealand's economy may be more dependent on honeybees than any other country worldwide. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)
Hamilton beekeeper and horticulturist, Marcia Meehan says many people don't realise just how seriously their lives will be affected once bee populations disappear.

She says as much as two-thirds of what we eat is pollinated by bees and without them we would be hard pressed to put food on the table.

"I say to people, What are you eating tonight? Most of that has to be pollinated somewhere along the line.

“Without bees you are just not going to get that food, or, if you do it is going to be very expensive.”

A recent study released in the United States is adding to fears of a worldwide decline in honey bee populations. Four out of eight bumble-bee species in the United States showed dramatic falls over a three-year period of up to 96 per cent.

University of Illinois entomology professor Sydney Cameron says the figures could be far worse, just “the tip of the iceberg,” according to online Science Daily.

New Zealanders generally believe the country's economy may be more dependent on honey bees than any other country worldwide.

Moreover, Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture (MAF) found in a 2005 study that most of the country's horticultural and agricultural industries would not survive without honey bees.

Changing Landscapes Affect Bee Populations

John Hartnell, Federated Farmers Bees spokesperson, says the traditional habitat and foraging areas for both bumble and honey bees have changed over the years.

Sheep and cattle pastures have been steadily converting to intensive dairy farming.

“That process removes from the landscape all the things that used to be there, like gorse hedges and the bit of broom and the shelter belts—that obviously has an impact … whether it is a bumble or a honey bee.”

An increasing number of beekeepers now derive income from pollinating for food production rather than the traditional honey.

The Trees are Bees program, set up last year by the industry, has provided advice to people from Northland to Southland on restabilising trees and plants that are most beneficial to honey bees.

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