Winter flowers for a Pollen Hotel

As spring arrives lots of flowers start to appear and so does the food for bees. However in winter food can be scarce for bees. Here are a few things you can plant in your garden to provide food for bees in winter when they really need it.

Calendula grows really well from seed. They provide lots of flowers all year round that bees love.

Borage also grow well from seed. They are blue and have a single petal arrangement, which are easy for honey bees to forage from.

Nasturtiums thrive in winter if you don’t get frosts.

Herbs like Rosemary, Thyme, Chamomile, Lemon Balm, Sage, Oregano, Lavender and Mint provide an abundance of flowers all year round.

Forage peas, Lupins and Broad beans are manure crops that will provide food for bees in winter while preparing your garden for the next spring.

The New Zealand native Hebe comes in many colours and is an excellent winter food source for bees.

Koanga Seeds produce a beneficial seed blend called Herbal Ley full of plants that produce food for bees including Alfalfa, Phacelia, Buckwheat, White Lupin, Daikon, Radish, Rape seed, Red Clover, Subterranean Clover, White clover, Yarrow, Plantain and Chicory.

King Seeds have put together several beneficial seed blends of plants that produce food for bees. One called Beneficial Insect Blend includes Buckwheat, Dill, Bishops Flower, Parsnip, Fennel, Bergamot and White Alyssum. Another called Bring on the Bees is full of Anise Hyssop, Bergamot, Bee Balm, Borage, Echium Blue Bedder and Phacelia Lacy. A blend called Wildflower Pollinator includes Rudbeckia, Thyme, Red Clover, Phacelia, Echium, Salvia, Cornflower, and European Poppy.

For more ideas of what plants to grow to provide food for bees check out this website.

If you are going to grow your plants from seed check out our post on what seeds to use as not all seeds sold in New Zealand are safe for bees.

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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.

Pollen hotel - viaduct 1

Epic Pollen Hotels in Wynyard Quarter become a Pollen Hotspot

The entire length of the western side of Darby Street in the heart of Wynyard Quarter is lined with wooden planter boxes full of flowers and edible plants that together comprise many square meters of food for bees.  Each of these planter boxes is a Pollen Hotel.

Alongside these planter boxes, thousands of New Zealand natives have been planted that line the entire street.  Canopy trees  like Pohutukawa, Kowhai and lower growing plants like Harakeke( NZ flax). They are planted in such density that in spring they will suddenly provide an abundant amount of pollen and nectar for bees.

Together these edible and native plantings provide a sustainable food source for bees all year round making a sizable contribution to The Park.

Darby Street has transformed into a Pollen Hotspot.

All of the plants for this  landscape project come entirely from stock grown by the nursery owned and run by local iwi Ngati Whatua 0 Orakei at Takaparawhau ( Bastion Point).

This Nursery initiative provides a real way for the local iwi to revive its traditional connections with the land.


makethepaark- a pollen hotel you can eat

A Pollen Hotel you can eat

Vegetables fruits and herbs all produce flowers with pollen and nectar that will help you create amazing pollen hotels.  Some produce more than others.  Some of the best producers are stone and pip fruit like citrus and plums.  Berries are good too, and strawberries are so easy to grow in a small space.  From the vegetable family you can rely on beans, tomatoes, aubergines, capsicums, chillies, melons, courgettes, pumpkins, cucumbers, peas and jerusalem artichokes. If you allow sliver beet, spinach, broccoli, fennel, celery, parsley, artichokes, onions, and leeks to go to seed they will become an entire pollen hotel all on their own producing an abundant amount of food for bees before turning into seed you can use next season. Herbs that produce food for bees include thyme, rosemary, mint, lemon balm, oregano, chamomile and sage. Great flowering companion plants you can eat include calendular, sunflowers, borage.  If you only have a tiny space we recommend planting thyme, rosemary, oregano you will be amazed at how much pollen these small plants provide bees.

who is making The Park- Annie Rowntree

People who are making The Park

Who is making The Park? Those who live and work in the Waitemata are encouraged to participate in plotting pollen hotels on The Park map. In doing so, The Park map will assist us in visualising the amount of food available for these bees in our urban environment, the bees’ potential flight path, and our collective action.

There are currently about 160,000 bees in the six bench beehives in Victoria Park. Collectively these hives have the capacity to produce 210 kilos of honey, however, the bees need lots of food in order to reach this target. Those who plot a pollen hotel on The Park map  will be invited to collect some of the honey they supported to make at harvesting time.

Annie Rowntree who lives in Freeman’s Bay noticed five honey bees on one flowering brassica this week. She recounts only having seen four over the past six months in her garden. Annie is letting all her vegetables go to seed as they seem to be providing lots of food for bees foraging in her garden. The flowers on her vegetables feeding the bees will also provide her with safe seeds she can trust for her next growing season.

What are you growing that is feeding bees? Check out our posts on planting suggestions for Pollen Hotels and help make The Park.

Monarch butterfly

A Pollen Hotel for a bee may also feed butterflies

Pollen Hotels we collectively build to make The Park, that will feed the bees located in Victoria Park, may also be providing a much needed food source for other pollinators including butterflies.

The Monach Butterfly New Zealand Trust have a list of plants that provide food for butterflies up on their website.  So if you want to attract butterflies to your Pollen Hotel consider using some of the following plants.

Calendula, Alyssum, Bottlebrush, Candytuft, Cape Marigold, Chrysanthemum, Cineraria, Cleome, Cockscomb, Sweet William, Gaillardia, Hebes, Kaikorua Rock Daisy, Mexican Sunflower, Osteospermum, Echium, Echinacea, Rudbeckia, Salvia, Snapdragon, Valerian, Verbena, Wallflower, Zinnia.

The MBNZT runs courses on how to develop butterfly habitats. The next one they are doing is in June. Think about doing it to learn how to make a Pollen Hotel. Then post a photo of your new Pollen Hotel on the map at and help make The Park.

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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.

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Local raw honey may help hay fever

There are many reasons for wanting to eat honey made by bees in the area you live.

“The benefits of eating raw honey are largely due to the fact that raw honey contains proteins and enzymes that the body uses to rebuild cells. Additionally, in its raw form honey contains pollen, which is responsible for the anti-bacterial and immune boosting properties. However, once heat treated the pollen is destroyed and the immune boosting properties are significantly reduced.

Many people who suffer from hay fever have found this can be reduced or can cease altogether once they introduce local raw honey gradually into their diet. The idea is that bees become covered in pollen spores when they travel from one flower to the next. These spores are then transferred to their honey. It is thought that eating that honey, even just a spoonful a day, can build immunity through gradual exposure and work in the body like a natural vaccine.

Be aware in some cases honey itself can trigger severe allergic reactions, including anaphylactic shock. So do not attempt to use honey if you’ve ever experienced an adverse reaction in the past. Use it sparingly until you’ve confirmed that you can tolerate it.”

Kate from Food as Medicine 


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.

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A powerful blessing followed by a call for pollen hotels

The Parks central point was fully activated with a powerful and heart warming karakia given by Rereata Makiha and Otene Reweti from Auckland Council’s Te Waka Angamua team, in an early morning blessing ceremony on the 3rd of May 2014. As we gathered on the western side of the hives and looked towards the first light the vibrations of Otene’s karakia energized the bees so they began to spiral high up into the air space above the hives. The intention of this blessing was to honor the historical and contemporary kaitiaiki and guardianship the local iwi have in this city and to ask them to bring this knowledge of custodianship to us all so we might also become effective protectors and caretakers of these bees.

These bees require respect within the hexagonal space in Victoria park but they also need support within the greater Waitemata. Winter is a tough time for all bees in the city. This project hopes to amplify this issue and inspire people to transform this reality by very simply planting a pollen hotel be it large or small, and to post a photo of it on the map. This will help visualise the difference this collective action makes. Leave an email contact when  you add a pollen hotel and we will contact you and let you know when you can come and get some of the honey you helped nurture.


Pasture Painting – under the center of The Park

A beehive is made up of many vessels that appear from above to be a hexagon. It reality they are many elongated hexagonal shapes which fit together perfectly so that they become one large surface cell we refer to as the honeycomb.

It is absolutely remarkable how honeybees manage to make this structure perfectly every time. Very rarely in nature do cells fit so cohesively without any spaces in between them.

Other six sided forms that occur in nature are Quartz crystals. Although these are rarely perfectly symmetrical.

Our singular hexagonal Pasture Painting has been configured on the north-south axis, starting from the northern point. In only a matter of days six bench bee hives with green roofs will be placed within this form and welcomed with an early morning Bee-Blessing.

A six sided dwelling for six hives intended to elicit a harmonic to support thousands of healthy bees.

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Preparing ground to welcome our six bench beehives

The Western side of Victoria Park will become base camp for the six bench beehives that are the central focus of the public sculpture The Park. We are creating a Pasture Painting in the shape of a Hexagonal over which these six hives will be placed. We are lucky as the ground under this hexagonal form is topsoil that was recently placed here as part of the tunnel development. Our preparation for this Pasture Painting includes getting our chemical free weed control partners Biothermal to hot water spray the space inside the hexagonal. This process uses water at a consistent temperature of 98 degrees to instantly kill the plants cells in the same way that a intensive burn effects our skin. This has a sweet smell a bit like boiling spinach. The sun assists with the dehydration process that follows which transforms the green space into a brown space within hours. Microbiology within cm of the surface is effected but there is no residual chemicals left in the space at all and no flight bound creatures need worry about any chemical particles which will harm them. We will inoculate this space with microbiology as we scatter seeds using Nutri-Life Network-AMF with Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi and Trichoderma from Franko Solutions in Silverdale. We will also use BioHome Garden a microbiological liquid concentrate supplied by Bio Organic Solutions Ltd several times in the first couple of weeks to help support our seedlings.

roots 3

Vertical pollen hotels help make The Park

Over several weeks in April kids from High Schools in the Waitemata worked with the The Roots-Creative Entrepreneurs inventing new and innovative ideas for vertical pollen hotels that could create more pollen space in our urban environment to support bees.

Using only recycled and natural materials such as tyres, drinking bottles and bamboo these designs worked through problems like how to capture water and maximize its retention and flow for the plants they were to hold. Taking into consideration how easy it might be for others to replicate their designs the project looked to give these kids a creative problem to solve where their solutions might inspire others to have a go.

These pollen hotels are hanging in Albert park for the last week of April and the first weekend of May under the public sculpture Walking in Trees by artist Richard Orjis. After that they will be donated to some lucky people in Waitemata where they will continue to help make The Park.


Pasture Paintings #3 and #4 connect across space

The shape of Pasture Paintings #3 on Gladstone Road, Parnell was informed by the boundary of the space. We wanted to make a form that pointed back into the middle of The Park and so we chose to construct a triangle. The base line sits on the North/South Axis. The top corner points North and the arrow head of the triangle points towards the bee hives in a Western direction.

Pasture Painting #4 is located on Motions Road between Tapac and the Auckland Zoo in Western Springs. #4 was like the previous Pasture Paintings site-responsive. The pole across the tram track was used as a central point to project two lines 66 degrees apart. Their open form is designed catch and reflect the point of Pasture Painting #3 in the East.

Both sites have been seeded in yellow flowered pasture plants; mustard, dandelion and lupins, which will grow to different heights and flower at different times.

To find out more about Pasture Paintings click on the Topics tab down the bottom of this page and select Pasture Paintings.