South Auckland schools pair up with organisations to help boost bee numbers

A project involving honey bees is bringing science out of the texts, and into action for South Auckland students.

Two groups – South Science and For the Love of Bees – have collaborated with four schools in a two-year research project which examines bee populations.

For the Love of Bees artist and vison holder Sarah Smuts-Kennedy said the collaboration aims at getting children involved in science with a hands-on approach to learning.

Students from Aorere College, Tangaroa College, Ormiston College and Kauri Flats Primary, use sensors designed by BuzzTech to record and collect data on six beehives located in Victoria Park and Myers Park in Auckland city.

BuzzTech founder and chief executive Julian McCurdy said information around bee activity and populations was a real issue facing the industry.

“The purpose of this is to provide the infrastructure to gather information. Real actual data from a database that we can run analytics and do really good statistical analysis,” said Mr McCurdy.

Julian McCurdy from BuzzTech talking to students about the censors which will be located in the hive. Photo: For the Love of Bees / Facebook.

MPI study – reported that the bee population had fallen by 9.8 per cent in 2016. down from a 10.7 per cent fall the previous year.

Ms Smuts-Kennedy said populations continue to die due to loss of habitat, environment pollution and disease, but the children are contributing in a meaningful way that both helps bees and promotes city-wide awareness.

Aidan Kiely, a teacher at Aorere College, said getting students involved in the doing of science is much more enjoyable and productive for students.

“Practical experiences are much more likely to capture interest. The students are incredibly enthusiastic about the project so far – they are showing a very high level of curiosity,” said Mr Kiely.

According to Agcarm and Apiculture NZ, bee populations contribute $5 billion to the economy and support a third of food eaten.

Ms Smuts-Kennedy said the bee sector was growing at an incremental rate and she believed New Zealand also has a social responsibility.

“How many jobs are dependent on the free pollination services of bees? Kiwifruit, apples, – we owe a lot to bees for our job security,” she said.

Agcarm chief executive Mark Ross said in a statement that the survey from the Ministry of Primary industries shows the country has some work to do to protect bee species and populations.

Mr Kiely said that ultimately he would like to see the students develop into and understand the roles of kaitiaki, or guardians.

“Empowering them to recognise the importance of our environment and the positive impact that they can have through their actions and raising awareness,” he said.

Students will collate their findings and compose them into a blog which will appear on the For the Love of Bees website.