Screen Shot 2014-06-26 at 8.03.31 AM

When a Pollen Hotel emerges into a Pollen Park

When many Pollen Hotels join something really wonderful happens. A Pollen Park emerges.

A Pollen Hotel might be a pot plant with flowering herbs, or a fruiting lemon tree or a flower garden. When many Pollen Hotels connect they become a Pollen Hotspot. This might look like a vegetable garden surrounded by a flower garden next to pollen laden citrus tree. Or it might look like a street of roadside berms planted in rosemary lined either side with Pohutakawa’s. These sort of plantings begin to supply bees with a year round food source, rather than short intense bursts. For example a Pohutakawa flowers in summer but then produces no food at all for the rest of the year.

When many Pollen Hotspots connect a Pollen Park emerges and the bee communities can really thrive as they are able to find stable food sources all year round.

These food sources also need to be safe and not harm bees when they feed on nectar and gather the pollen from the flowers. Bees in a safe Pollen Park do not need supplementary feeding with sugar water or corn syrup  and as a result they produce their human community excellent quality honey with real medical properties.

Bees will forage 6.5km for nectar and pollen. Plant a Pollen Hotel and help turn the space inside this circle into a Pollen Park.


Pollen Hotels-small spaces with food for bees

A Pollen Hotel is a space with a high density of flowering plants that produce nectar and pollen for bees to feed on. It could be a few pot plants on a deck, hanging plants on a balcony, a vegetable garden, a planted verge, or a rose garden. The shapes and sizes of Pollen Hotels are only limited by your imagination. If everyone plants a small Pollen Hotel then suddenly a Pollen Park emerges.

Pollen Parks are spaces that provide bees with a safe year round source of food.

Help make The Park.

Check out our list of plants that you can grow to produce lots of food for bees.


Why we love Bees

Bees are part of the free engineering developed for us by nature that help make our food system work. Nearly all the fruits we eat require bees or other insects to pollinate their flowers so that they can actually produce a fruit. Much of New Zealand’s economy relies on the free pollination service provided by bees. Without bees we would find it very difficult to grow beans, plums, tomatoes and strawberries. If we want to continue to be gifted this free service then we need to provide safe and secure food sources for them.

Pasture painting and water colour 1

Pasture Paintings – a form of pollen hotel

Over the past couple of weeks you may have noticed patches of dead (brown) grass in geometric shapes; circles, triangles, and lines on road-side berms across the Waitemata. These shapes are being seeded in pasture plants that will grow over the coming months and provide food for the bees in Victoria Park. A form of pollen hotel, these Pasture Paintings have been designed and implemented by Auckland based artists Taarati Taiaroa, Sarah Smuts Kennedy and Richard Orjis.

The design of the pasture paintings have been developed in pairs. The image in this post shows the Curran Street site (left) and St Marks Road site (right). The watercolour (middle) is our preliminary design of the relationship of form between the two sites which are at opposite ends of the Waitemata area.

The lines of the Pasture Painting #1 at the Curran Street site (alongside the harbour bridge and the Northern Motorway) follow the true northern and western axes, and the Pasture Painting #2 on St Marks Road (alongside the Southern Motorway in Newmarket) follow the true southern and eastern axes. While, separately these shapes suggest an arrow head pointing back to the centre of The Park (the beehives) both forms reflect each other across space. Situated on the edges of the Waitemata area these axis forms reference a compass drawn in the corner of a map.

We will be posting the process and progress of all six Pasture Paintings as they grow over the following months.


Not all seeds are safe for bees

Seeds that are artificially coloured; white, pink, red, blue and green, may be coated in chemicals that are harmful to bees. Seeds with a blue coating may be treated with copper which is considered “organic”, however,  they are still avoided by biological farmers who believe them to be detrimental to the biological engine beneath the soil that generates long term fertility as as little as 3ppm of copper can be toxic to soil fungi.

It has been determined by a vast number of international non industry research studies that chemicals from the Neonicotinoid insecticide family and some fungicides that are coated on seeds are contributing to colony collapse.

Neonicotinoids are systemic chemicals meaning they move throughout the plants entire system, from the coating on the seed, including the nectar, at levels which are toxic to bees as with most insects. The chemical manufacturer advises that these chemicals should never be used on plants that may be visited by bees, but that doesn’t seem to have been applied when using them to coat your seeds.

It is very hard to tell which treated seeds do or do not have neonicotinoid insecticide or harmful fungicides on them. The chemical combinations are so varied that even experts struggle to keep abreast of what combination is what. In addition, here in New Zealand there is little public knowledge about the issues around the use of these chemical treatments and the side-effects these could have on our agricultural, horticultural industries and pollinating systems in the short and long term.  New Zealand labeling laws are inadequate and many packets of seeds have little or no information about what their seeds are treated with.

It is likely that the products called Poncho and Gaucho that are produced by Bayer are being used in New Zealand to treat seeds. These include imidacloprid, which is one of the most common neonictenoids used. A seed supplier we talked to said they had noticed an increase in the use of treated seeds by well over 60 % in the last three years. This suggests treated seeds and plants grown from these seeds are now widely spread throughout the country.

So to be sure you are not planting a seed that is going to harm a bee once it has grown into a flower try to use organic seeds which will have been grown and harvested in a way that means they will be good healthy seeds in the first place, and make sure you ask for untreated seed or seed treated with Trichoderma which are beneficial fungi that help protect and feed the seed.

Of these 3 different seeds in our picture one of them is treated. Most untreated seeds look natural and have a varied surface. By placing a focus on using good healthy seed stock and creating healthy living soil you can eliminate the need for chemical support in the first place. Both industry and non industry research shows chemical applications may stop particular bugs or fungi attacking a plant, but they always compromise the overall health of the plant and the quality of the produce it grows.

Many countries overseas are banning these detrimental products as the plight of the bee becomes a serious concern.

Read this article for more information on the general state of play here in New Zealand.

Click to download Pdf safety data sheets for:
— Poncho
— Gaucho

Check out the posts on the processes and products we are using to help our seeds in our Pasture Paintings get the best start by building robust biology.

Mycorrhizal fungi- microorganisms to help plants grow

Microorganisms’ are many different types of fungi and bacteria that you want to live in your soil. They process the nutrients that are locked away in things like leaves, twigs and cow poo and turn them back into their mineral forms so that plants can eat them.  One microorganism called mycorrhizal fungi does so much more than that. This fungi attaches itself to plant roots so the plant looks like it has a root hair extension. With these longer roots the plant can collect so many more minerals to eat, and store lots of water. Mycorrhizal fungi also produces enzymes to help make the plant healthy. 90% of mycorrhizal fungi have been killed by chemicals so to get them back you need to inoculate for them. Fortunately this is pretty easy to do. We are re introducing this fungi along with Trichoderma back into our soil with Nutri-Life Network AMF supplied to us by Franko Solutions in Sliverdale at the same time we sow our seeds. These microorganisms will help build humus, increase the plants roots zone, boost phosphate and zinc availability, lift the levels of calcium in the plant, help the plant be more resilient, and increase the plants nitrogen fixing capacity.


What does nitrogen-fixing mean?

While some of our favorite pasture plants produce food for bees they also fix nitrogen in the soil. By working with a bacteria present in the soil they are able to take nitrogen that is floating around in the air and store it into nodules on their roots. When these plants die and compost back into the ground this nitrogen is then released into the soil for the surrounding plants to consume in a form that they can digest. This is really useful as it is really hard to get nitrogen into the soil in a form that plants can eat and plants need lots of nitrogen. Nitrogen fixing plants you can grow include alfalfa, lupins, beans, clover, peas, peanuts, buckwheat, mustard, vetch and lucerne.

makethepark-red clover

Some of our favourite pasture plants

As well as producing food for bees and other insects these pasture plants help the soil become a fertile and drought resistant space. The more complex a green space is the more biodiversity it can support, the more minerals it produces, the more water it holds and the more dynamic it is. So plant as many varieties as you can.

Clover- fixes nitrogen, and produces food for bees. Lupins- fixes nitrogen and produces food for bees. Chicory- has roots that mine deep down into the ground for minerals and produces food for bees. Mustard- fixes nitrogen, gets rid of wireworm which eat potatoes and produces food for bees. Lucerne-fixes nitrogen and produces food for bees. Forage Peas -fixes nitrogen and produces food for bees. Vetch -fixes nitrogen and produces food for bees. Phacelia- produces food for bees.

preparing ground small res

Preparing ground

Before scattering any seeds we need to make sure our ground is good enough to grow pasture plants.

Firstly we want to get rid of the competing grass without the using any chemicals which harm microorganisms and insects. So we will use a new hot-water spray system. Then we will focus on reintroducing microorganism communities back into the spaces we intend to create our pasture paintings on. Microorganisms will help our plants grow. We have inoculated all the ground where we have scattered seed with Nutri-Life Network- AMF. This microorganism blend reintroduces Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi, and Trichoderma back into the soil as quickly as possible to help our plants have strong healthy root systems.