Oct 6: Bee-friendly Garden Hunt

Bee-friendly garden hunt.

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Below are some talking points and activities to pass the time, all relating to today’s story.

Talking points

Discuss the ideas presented in the story with your family—at home or over video conferencing. Find ways to involve as many people as possible, especially those who you know are isolated by the lock-down.

  • Looking through the photos, a lot of them have golden tones. Do you agree that Lottie Hedley has captured a sense of magic in these photos? What do you think makes the photos beautiful? Do they help us to understand anything about bees?
  • Mānuka honey has grown in popularity at such a fast rate that in five years, the hives in New Zealand have doubled, from 400,000 to 800,000. Have you heard people talking about manuka honey or seen it in shops? Do you like the sound of the “astringent twang?”
  • Mānuka flowers for a short season and there is a period where the nectar flows particularly fast, so beekeepers “chase” the nectar by taking their hives south as the manuka trees come into season. Did you know that the warmer weather of spring starts at the top of the country and moves toward the South Island over a period of weeks? Why do you think this happens?
  • Did you know that there are 28 species of native bees? Do you think you’ve ever seen a native bee? Thinking about urban gardens and parks, what might be suitable habitat for a native bee?
  • Young beekeepers working for Mana Kai are chosen for their ability to be gentle around the bees: “bees hate being banged around…they respond to respect and care.” Does this surprise you? What does this show you about bees? Do you like the idea of eating honey from a hive that has been gently handled? Do you think bees might be capable of any kind of feelings towards their keepers?

Activity: Bee-friendly Garden Hunt

Put on your “bee” eyes and go for a walk in your garden or neighbourhood, to find out how bee-friendly it is! There are three main characteristics of the flowers that bees most want to find. Follow the three steps to see if you can find them all on your walk!

You will need:

  • A garden or park to look around in

Step One: Did you know that bees can’t see red? It looks the same as the surrounding green leaves to them. Instead, they’re attracted by yellow, blue, purple, violet and white flowers. How many can you spot?

You can also check to see whether these flowers are clumped or spread out. From a bee’s point of view, clumps are much more helpful.

Step Two: Look for flowers that smell good. Bees follow scents first and notice colours second, so fragrant flowers are important to them. You might find lavender, stock or other fragrant cottage garden flowers. Check native trees such as pittosporum – although their flowers are often tiny and less conspicuous they can smell lovely. Then there are fruit trees! Citrus flowers smell amazing – and you may find plum, pear, feijoa and peach trees in bloom.

Step Three: Look for flowers with a simple form. Bees like to get in there and do their job and get out again without too much fuss. Frilly flowers are hard work but simple flowers that give easy access to pollen and nectar are good news for our golden friends. Daisies, forget-me-nots, fruit-tree flowers and pansies are examples of these. Vegetables that have gone to seed are also great -one rocket plant that goes to seed will make hundreds of simple flowers. Lastly – don’t overlook weeds! The simple forms of buttercup, dandelion and clover are all appreciated.

You can also use your “bee-eyes” to look for water in the garden – is there a shallow dish of water that a bee could drink from? Are there undisturbed patches of ground that native bees could live in? What could you plant to make your garden or neighbourhood even more bee-friendly?

Send us a picture of you garden hunting!