Bee decline could sting economy

Updated at 9:04 pm on 30 January 2013

A scientist at the University of Canterbury warns a declining number of bees could threaten the New Zealand economy and more needs to be done to help farmers protect native species and pollinating flies.

Ecology professor Jason Tylianakis says there are about 430,000 hives throughout the country and the pollination of crops and clover is worth $5 billion to the economy each year.

He says honey bees are under pressure worldwide from diseases and pests, and managed hives are also at threat due to pests and chemical sprays.

Professor Tylianakis says up to 75% of food crops need pollination, and further losses could affect exports such as kiwifruit, apples and clove.

He is calling for areas of unsprayed and uncultivated habitat to be set aside for bees to populate.

Professor Tylianakis says when mass crops such as canola are in flower, not using pesticides would really help native bee species to thrive.

Research has shown that the more pollinators there are in the environment, the better off agriculture is, he says.

Next story in Rural: Farmers expected to back research programme