You may have noticed the buzz about bees lately, stemming from a growing concern about their disappearance from our backyards and gardens.
Bees pollinate almost 80 per cent of our food and many of our native plants, so providing suitable habitat is essential – especially in urban environments where it’s harder for bees to find suitable food plants and homes, which can lead to a decrease in numbers.
The heartening news is that awareness of the important role native bees play is increasing, as is concern about the decline of their habitats and a desire to do something about it.
North Adelaide resident Judith Avery is working to bring bees back to suburbia by installing simple bee hotels in her backyard.
“I first saw photos of bee hotels on top of buildings in New York and realised people were working to look after bees,” said Judith. “So, I researched it and made my first one. It was a bit of an experiment, as I had limited skills and resources, but it worked and some bees came.
“I’ve since attended a City of Adelaide workshop where I learnt a lot more, like that there needs to be smooth edges on the bamboo and twigs in the bee hotel, otherwise the bee’s wings get caught.”
Judith’s latest native bee hotel is a nesting box in which she’s created a couple of layers that the bees use as an artificial nest: a bee block made from a small log with several holes drilled into it part way and a bee bundle using small sections of cleaned out bamboo.
Judith also plants flowers near her hotels to attract the bees.
“I didn’t realise we had so many different species of native bees, and they each do different things in the bee hotel which helps determine what type of bee you have.”
For those nervous about having bees in their backyard, there’s no need to worry – native bees generally don’t sting – but enjoy just watching them and avoid contact. There are more than 1600 species of native bees in Australia and at least 300 of those can be found in Adelaide and the Mount Lofty Ranges.
“This is my attempt to look after the environment for my grandchildren, in a small way that I can manage,” Judith said.
For those wanting to set up their own bee hotel, Judith’s advice is to seek guidance and organise access to the right tools, but also to experiment and just give it a go.
Planting a range of native plants that flower from early spring to late autumn, limiting the use of pesticides or creating a mud-brick bee wall can all help bring bees to your backyard.
The City of Adelaide has joined the global bee movement by installing native bee hotels at Bonython Park / Tulya Playground (Park 27) and in the biodiversity site at Wirrarninthi / GS Kingston Park (Park 23) . A third bee hotel will be built in the biodiversity site at Mistletoe Park / Tainmuntilla (Park 11) this spring.
Eight local councils have partnered with the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges Natural Resources Management Board to install native bee hotels along the River Torrens, from the Hills to the sea. So, why not hop on your bike and check out the different native bee hotels in each council area? For more information about the Native Bee Project – watch the video below and visit cityofadelaide.com.au/beebnb
Now that’s a wrap!
Native bees are brilliant for the planet, but honey bees can be just as sweet. Did you know the beeswax produced by a honey bee can be used to create an alternative to plastic wrap?
Find out how to make these at home by clicking here.