bees, honey and other sticky subjects

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Kiwi beekeepers on the thorns of a dilemma

New Zealand is facing a dilemma and beekeepers' interests are at its heart. Gorse (Ulex europaeus), a spiky evergreen bush with bright yellow flowers, was introduced by European settlers, but is now classified as a pest in the Bay of Plenty and its destruction is encouraged.

The difficulty arises because gorse provides much-needed early pollen for honeybees (also an introduced species) which are vital to the region's kiwi fruit and avocado pollination. Estimates put the pollination contracts at over $NZ 8 million and the value to growers much higher still.

Gorse also happens to be a good nurse plant for native bush tree species; it provides a niche habitat for small birds; and it is an effective nitrogen fixer, improving soil fertility.

Bay of Plenty beekeepers are meeting their regional council to discuss the dilemma.

On a personal note, although I can understand why New Zealand considers gorse a weed, I was brought up amongst it and love its butterscotch-like scent and the colour it provides all year around. It's said in Ireland that gorse is in flower every month of the year.


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