We all know bees are needed to pollinate flowers so that our fruit trees, flowers and veggies can produce seed and so reproduce. Bees have been carrying out their pollination work in a mutually beneficial exchange with the flowers of which humans have tended to be oblivious. That is, until something happens causing bee numbers to decline, then the plight of bees becomes headline news, as the significance of bees to humans is that fully one third of our food relies on pollination by bees.
What has happened to bees?
Honey bees are a domesticated “animal,” bred for a placid nature and good honey production. With modern farming practices bees have come under a lot of stresses, from hive design, being transported about the country on trucks, to exposure to agricultural chemicals, loss of a diverse diet due to monoculture crops and destruction of bushland, weeds, and wildflowers- a previous source of bee food. The combined stresses cause the bees to succumb to disease and the phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder which caused widespread hive deaths in the US.
Are bees in trouble in Australia?
The above mentioned stressors to bees occur in Australia too except the distance hives are transported is usually less. The other stress bees contend with in Australia is a difficult climate. Last honey season production was down 50% in places where hives were lost in various climate events from heat waves, bush fires, and hot dry weather reducing flowering of bush flowers. The pesticide class neonicotinoid has been found responsible for bee hive deaths and has been banned in Europe. Neonicotinoids are still sold in Australia, both to farmers and home gardeners.
What can I do?
In an urban environment we can have more control over environmental conditions by irrigating and planting a wide range of flowering plants which will supply bees with abundant food year round. We can stop using garden sprays toxic to bees and so create an urban bee sanctuary.
What about native bees?
Anything we do to protect honey bees will also benefit our native bees. Additionally we can create habitat and nesting sites specific to the species that occur in our area to encourage them to take up residence. We can be conscious when removing dead trees that they may be home to the social stingless bees, hives can be rescued and rehoused. (see the lovely new bee hotel at the community gardens – Kat)
What kind of plants do bees like?
Bees flower preferences are often different to those of humans. In planting a garden for bees we choose flowers that produce generous quantities of nectar and /or pollen. We give thought to when these are flowering as bees need food year round especially in early Spring when they need to provide food for raising brood.
10 favourite flowers of bees
- Abelia grandiflora
- Echium candicans
- Salvias and Sage
You can learn more about creating a sanctuary for bees in your home garden with Eileen in her upcoming workshop this weekend in Leura, contact firstname.lastname@example.org