If you’ve sat still long enough anywhere near a flowering plant and taken the time to ‘just bee’, chances are you would have seen one of our very own home grown heroes.
There are over 2000 different types of Australian native bees and each plays an important part in ensuring the continued pollination of up to 90 per cent of our flowering plants, ensuring that the rich and unique diversity of Australian flora can continue to survive.
These amazing little beauties come in all shapes, sizes and colours. Australian native bees can be black, yellow, red, metallic green or even black with blue polka dots. Some are as small as a grain of coffee and others, like the Teddy Bear Bee, are up to 2.5cm. Having this diversity of species means they have each evolved to pollinate different native plants, from the smallest of groundcovers to the tallest of trees.
Unfortunately a decline in suitable habitat and a reduction of a variety of food sources has meant that our native bees are doing it tough, often outcompeted by the introduced European Honey Bee (Apis mellifera).
“We are very tidy gardeners, often taking away suitable habitat necessary for native bees – things such as dead hollow reeds, rolled bark and rotten logs all play a part in providing homes for smaller beings,” says Emma Patyus, Eurobodalla Council’s Environment Project Officer.
“It’s also important to provide flowers so bees have access to pollen to feed year-round, including plants that flower through the colder and leaner winter months.”
Good plants for attracting native bees include native peas and daisies and shrubs such as Bottlebrush (Callistemon), Grevilleas and Coastal Rosemary (Westringia fruticosa). A bundle of bamboo canes or a block of hardwood drilled with holes, 4 to 9mm wide and 150 mm deep, may also provide a valuable alternate home for local resin and leafcutter bees.
Council’s environment team conducts bee-friendly plantings and works with schools and community groups to craft bee hotels and to help spread the word about these important little creatures.
“It may sound simple but the reality is that without these smaller species we run the risk of losing highly evolved and intricate food webs that may be irreplaceable,” Emma said.
Above: Sunshine Bay Public school students were busy bees last month. Pictured is student Ollie Martin with his hand-crafted bee hotel and Council Environment Project Officer Emma Patyus. Media Release