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Bee initiative creates a hive for environmental education

Bee initiative creates a hive for environmental education

A bee collects pollen from a white flower in Rawene, New Zealand.

Queenstown’s Bees are the pioneers in environmental education.

A bee collects pollen from a white flower in Rawene, New Zealand.

Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham–Farrelly

Bee The Change allows local businesses and organizations to sponsor hives in the area, including Queenstown Botanic Parks, Queenstown Golf Club and Wakatipu Reforestation plantsation.

To educate passersby about biodiversity and local businesses, signage is included with the hives.

Neal McAloon, the founder of the organisation, stated that the idea for it was born after a ski accident that ended his career in outdoor education.

“I was the founder of Queenstown’s climbing company. I was involved in a ski accident. [couldn’t guide]for a few years, so decided that apiculture was something he wanted to study.” he said.

“The reason I chose to take up apiculture was that both my careers were driven by curiosity about the natural world. Bees can educate us on the state of our local environment.

“Some friends of mine own a local brewery and asked if we could sponsor them and buy some hives. It was a great idea!”

Bee The Change was founded in 2019 and has been thriving ever since.

McAloon claimed that bees were a great way for people to learn because everyone loves them.

“We use honeybees to educate the community on environmental issues. People love bees. You get honey, so it’s easy to get people talking. [about them]He said.

Bees also reflect changes in the environment. The signs found with the hives indicate how important the honeybees to the food chain as well as how closely they are linked to people.

“As a domesticated species we have the opportunity to see their hives and pick up any changes in the environment.

“So they’re a hare in the coal mine, and they’re giving information back to us about what’s happening in the local environment.”

McAloon described Bee The Change to be “a bit of an effect organisation”, which aims to improve the well-being of the community and the surrounding environment.

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“We have these Bee-Friendly Zone Signs where we give people instructions and a packet of seeds to help them make their own pollinator-friendly gardening. These signs have been distributed to 20 early learning centres within the district.

The honey from the beehives is also returned to the community, with local businesses being able to buy the honey directly from a stall at the market.

McAloon acknowledged that it was not without challenges. Queenstown had the mildest winter this year and sponsorship numbers were not increasing due Covid-19.

“On July 20th which happens to be right in Queenstown’s darkest, most severe, and coldest part of winter, my honeybees were flying and collecting pollen from trees that were already producing the pollen. This is unheard of.

“It has meant that my bees have started earlier and the Varroa destructor mite (a parasitic mite) has been really bad this season. I have had three treatments on each hive while I usually only do two. The cost of managing the hives has risen to thousands of dollars.

McAloon had hoped to expand the organization in the future with long-term goals for shipping bees overseas as well as making Bees For Change an international organisation.

McAloon encourages interested companies to get in touch as there are spots available on some of its websites.

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