Bees are crucial to food security, with many of the world’s main food crops pollinated by them. Australia has honeybees, imported not long after colonization, but also thousands of species of native bees, the majority of which are solitary bees, rather than live in hives. These are vital in pollinating our Australian native plants or form a key part of our ecosystem.
As gardeners, your role is vital. Not only can you include a variety of nectar rich plants in your yard and even balcony, but you can also provide a home by including a bee hotel somewhere at your place. Shallow bowls of water with pebbles and a stick in them, to make sure bees have access to clean water and don’t drown. Probably the most important thing you can do is be mindful of the chemicals you use and when they are applied. They should NEVER be used when bees are foraging, and systemic poisons should not be used when plants are in flower. Even simple things like mowing your grass in the evening after bees have ‘gone to bed’ will help and allowing the clover in your lawn to flower.
Flowers of course are where all the action takes place as far as bees are concerned. Native plants like bottlebrush, grevilleas, native rosemary and tea trees are preference by native bees, but they also love some exotics like daisies, buddleia, lavender, rosemary, salvia and abelia, which are also favourites of the honeybee.
One of the most important things to prioritize if you want to have a healthy bee population is to be careful about your use of any pesticides or herbicides. Bees are particularly sensitive to poisoning, so avoid chemicals if possible and certainly never use them when bees are foraging. Remember some are system, meaning the active constituent is within the plant and travels to all parts including the flowers, which can then accidentally be transferred to bees when they are feeding. These are best avoided completely.
If you can, buy local honey and honey products that supports your local beekeepers. Always buy Australian made honey rather than imported honey. If you want to have a hive of your own, contact your local beekeepers association and join; they will guide you through the intricacies of having your own apiary. More broadly, supporting farmers using sustainable farming practices also helps bees, as these support biodiversity.
Lastly, for a bit of fun, why not join the 2021 global Waggle Dance Challenge, which is an attempt to get 20,000 ‘waggle dance’ videos uploaded from 20 countries in 20 days. You can upload your video anytime till 7pm on the 15th May, and it’s free and fun!
By Meredith Kirton