When was the last time you noticed a bee buzzing around some flowers? Maybe you find them charming or annoying – either way, bees are incredibly important. Not only do they pollinate plants in our gardens & parks, they are essential to food and flower production. As they say 'no bees, no me'.
Bees are a sign of how healthy, or otherwise, our environment is. And whilst the traditional yellow & black striped honey bee is what many of us are familiar with, Australia is home to approximately 2,000 native species.
STINGLESS NATIVE BEES
At just 4mm in length, the tiny wonder that is the Tetragonula Carbonaria is common to our region and a top pollinator. You'll see them buzzing about the nursery and humming around their purpose built hive. These busy bees only travel up to 500m to find food, so planting flowers and native trees and allowing old trees to remain so the bees can nest in the holes is essential.
Research shows Stingless bees are valuable pollinators of crops such as macadamias and mangoes plus benefit strawberries, watermelons, citrus, avocados, lychees and many more essential food crops.
As most native bees are stingless, a backyard hive is achievable for many people. But not all bees are social & hive dwellers. That's where insect hotels play a great role. Solitary bees are lone bees, which means they do not belong to a colony and don't even bother to protect their own nests. They create nests in hollow reeds or twigs, holes in wood, or, most commonly, in tunnels in the ground.
The female Solitary bee typically creates a compartment (a ‘cell’) with an egg and some provisions for the resulting larva, then seals it off. A nest may consist of numerous cells. When the nest is in wood, usually the last (those closer to the entrance) contain eggs that will become males. Providing nest boxes (insect hotels) for solitary bees is increasingly popular for gardeners.
YOU'VE BOUGHT AN INSECT HOTEL... WHAT NEXT?
Place your hotel/box facing east or north east so the bees can wake up with the sun, protect them from hot westerly heat & winds and if possible where there is a little protection from heavy rains. Hotels are more active in summer with leafcutter bees, blue banded and many more varieties laying eggs or temporarily residing in the tunnels.
THINK BEFORE YOU SPRAY
If a plant is in flower, bees will ingest whatever is sprayed on it or taken up if using a systemic poison, so remove any blooms before applying insecticides.
Many native bees are tiny and can be mistaken for pests... don't spray if you're unsure.
PLANT 3 FOR THE BEES - HERB, FLOWER OR TREE
See our list below of bee attracting plants that grow well in our region.
Flowers, herbs and ground covers
*Gazania (several varieties)
*Catmint or Nepeta (many varieties)
*Bacopa (Sutera cordata)
*Seaside Daisy (Erigeron)
*Basil, Perennial Basil, Lavender, Rosemary, Coriander, Borage
*Euphorbia Star Dust White Sparkle
*Evolvulus “Blue my Mind”
*Gaura (all varieties)
*Fan Flower (Scaevola aemula)
Small shrubs 0.5 – 2 metres
*Lavender Lights or Texas Sage (Leucophylla)
*Salvia (all varieties)
*Butterfly bush (Buddleja)
*Grevillea (all varieties)
*Tea Tree (Leptospermum)
*Grass Tree (Xanthorrhea) when in flower
*Pink Passion (Ermophila maculate)
Medium Shrubs 3 – 5 metres
*Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia)
*Camellia (most varieites)
*Purple Pea Bush (Hovea acutifolia)
Shade and feature trees over 5 metres
*New Zealand Christmas Bush (Metrosideros)
*Golden Penda (Xanthostemon chrysthus)
*Grevillea (Grevillea sp.)
*Lemon Scented myrtle (Backhousia citriodora)
*Tulipwood (Harpulia pendula)
*Gum Trees (Eucalyptus, Corymbia, Angophora)
Our rescued log hive housing Tetragonula hockingsi native stingless bees