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University’s bee sanctuary a hive of activity

The University of Auckland’s Bee Sanctuary is taking shape behind the Law School building thanks to a dedicated group of bee-loving students.

A bee sanctuary is a piece of land filled with plants and flowers that are attractive to pollinator insects such as bees.

Georgia McCrory-Bowick, who is studying a conjoint Bachelor of Arts and Science degree, is the creator of the University’s Bee Sanctuary, and an executive member of the University’s Sustainable Future Collective.

“People often don't understand that saving the bees is not about having a hive, it is about having land and flowers and pesticide free spaces which insects can live in,” Georgia says.

“With the Bee Sanctuary we hope to alter this misconception. There are over one million western honeybees in New Zealand and each honey bee colony requires a billion flowers a season to survive, and that is just one species. Bees have an essential role in supporting the ecology of the planet. Without pollinators, we simply would not survive.”

Georgia learnt the fundamentals of establishing a bee garden after attending a For the Love of Bees workshop.

The project was soon humming along after she secured a plot of land hidden behind the Law School.

“The University’s Grounds Manager, Stanley Jones, has been extremely supportive in our idea for creating a habitat for bees, without him we wouldn't exist.”

A bee-loving committee of seven students tend to the garden as well as research bee habitats, fundraise, and of course, organise working bees.

“What struck me most about our first working bee was the joy people felt getting stuck into the dirt, doing something physical and helpful to make the environment a better place. A wonderful by-product of the sanctuary is how happy it makes people.”

With native bees in mind, Georgia and ecology student Maia Miku Nakano-hay carefully select plants to flower at different times of the year including natives such as Harakeke and Hoheria, and some introduced species like Rosemary and Lavendula.

Half of the site becomes a river after heavy rain so plants must be able to handle perpetually wet soil, such as Siberian Iris which is planted in the swampy areas.

“We always try to choose native plants but this is limited to what our supplier has in stock.”

Visit the UoA Bee Sanctuary Facebook page.

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