You’ve most likely seen bee movie and know just how integral bees are to our world. But what are you doing about helping the plight of our tiniest workers? Here’s a school holiday project that’ll bee educational too!
Bees aren’t just those annoying, stinging creatures we once thought them to be. Bees are, in fact, integral to our livelihood. They play a vital role in the balance of nature as they help to pollinate most of the crops we eat and many that feed farm livestock.
According to the Queensland State Government’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, honeybees add an estimated $4 to 6 billion to the Australian agricultural and horticultural industries each year. While the more than 80,000 commercial hives in Queensland produce around 75kg of honey per hive annually, it’s not all about the honey. Did you know, nearly two-thirds of Australia’s agricultural production benefits from honeybee pollination? Our favourite foods such as apples, avocados, stone fruits, melons and citrus fruits are either highly dependent on, or greatly benefit from, honeybee pollination. In fact, according to the Queensland Beekeepers’ Association Inc, every third mouthful of food we eat requires pollination by honeybees. But bee populations are dying at an alarming rate. Destruction of their natural habitat, intensive farming practices, pests and diseases are just some of the complex reasons for this decline. So what can your family do in your own backyard these school holidays to help the plight of the bees? Here’s what:
Feed the bees
Bees will be encouraged to come into your yard if you have the right sustenance for them. Water is key. Fill a tray, pot or birdbath with water and include stones for safe landing. Herbs left to flower are wonderful medicine for bees and other pollinators. Think marjoram, oregano, basil, chives, sage, lavender, thyme, mint, parsley, dill, rosemary and more. If you’ve got a spare spot in your garden, why not get the kids planting some herb seedlings? Otherwise, there are some key flowering plants that attract native bees and these include abelias, bottlebrush, daisies, gum trees, grevilleas, tea tree and honey myrtle. Why not go on a nursery expedition and seek out some of these trees and have a family planting day these holidays?
Learn to love weeds
Bees love dandelions, fennel, thistles, oxalis, clover and onion weeds. And they are also killed by chemicals. Don’t use toxic herbicides like Glyphosate or Neonicotinoid insecticides. These can include Monsanto’s Roundup or Bayer’s Confidor. Check the label if unsure.
Make a bee hotel
There’s a difference between honeybees and native bees but they both play a vital role in pollination. A simple bee hotel in your backyard will encourage those solitary native bees to hang around and complete their vital role in the ecosystem and this is a great school holiday project for the family. Start with a weatherproof structure. We’ve seen old TVs and small cupboards turned into bee hotel ‘buildings’ but the simplest way is to find an old box or crate that will allow you to have different compartments. You see, there are some 1500 species of native bees and different species have different housing requirements so your bee hotel should include a variety of materials (or ‘rooms’). Materials to fill your rooms can include closely packed bamboo lengths or hollow dried plant stems, maybe even some larger dried-out gumnuts. You can even drill out timber offcuts and logs to provide native bees with the all-important ‘tunnel’ they like to rest in. When complete, position your hotel in a warm, sunny and sheltered spot at least 1m off the ground but no more than 2m above it.