Have you ever wondered what would happen if we had no bees?
I usually love ‘What if’ style wonders… but I don’t like this one, one bit. Because the reality is we would have no fruit. No vegetables. No flowers.
If pollinators disappear, we will all get stung.
Pollination is vital to plants, to bees, to humans. Without it plants can’t reproduce. If don’t give bees a safe home in a biodiverse environment, they can’t give one back to us.
‘Native bees are amazing little creatures that we really want to have in our gardens, at school, wherever they may be. They are amazing pollinators and that’s just what our plants need to grow the fruit, vegies and flowers we love.’
Costa Georgiadis, Gardening Australia host.
What is causing a decline in the bee population?
Disease, the Varroa Mite parasite, pesticides as well as plant mono culture and changing climates are the lead causes.
How can we bee the solution?
New research suggests that to strengthen the immune system of the bees to keep them fit and healthy enough to survive these attacks is to give them a bio diverse diet. Something that sounds a whole lot harder than it actually is.
Welcome bees into your backyard by building a bee hotel.
It doesn’t take much to turn your garden into an Air Bee&Bee (lol). They are easy to make and a great way to get families together to source the right materials like bamboo stems, twigs and leaves.
‘You don’t have to live on a farm to be a beekeeper, bees often do better in urban areas than in the country, mainly because city parks and gardens contain a wider range of plant life.’
I made my Bee Hotel as an honorary student of the Weleda Bee B&B Hotel schools program. And I’ll show you how to do it too.
The initiative was the brainchild of Weleda Australia CEO David Johnson and is now embraced by over 600 school communities.
‘We were looking for a project where we could just give back. To help kids understand something that is really worthwhile. After a while you know it’s going to flow through and society can potentially change from there.’
David Johnson, Weleda Australia CEO.
I was given a kit, just like the schools are. It’s designed to be placed in the school’s vegetable patches, a great place for native solitary bees to live and build their families. My job was then fill it with cosy little holes for these busy bodies to lay their eggs.
‘I think building a network of Bee B&B’s Hotels around the country is a great idea, not only to help our fuzzy buddies but also give schools the real curriculum opportunity to take maths and science lessons out into the garden and learn the importance of pollinators.’
Costa Georgiadis, Gardening Australia host.
How can I make my own?
You don’t need a kit to make your own Bee Hotel. Start with a simple wooden box, just make sure it’s not chemically treated.
Native Australian bees are mostly solitary and build their nests in existing environments like hollow logs, holes in trees, burrows in the ground, hollows in dead plants, twigs, barks and bamboo straws. Foraging for these is a great way to re-connect with nature and for families to educate kids about the importance of pollinators.
Solitary bees love a rustic, natural hotel suite with cosy nooks in a range of sizes. Don’t we all!
Take blocks of non-chemically treated wood and drill a range different sized of holes in them. Make sure to drill these sideway, not straight up.
Fill your box with these blocks as well as twigs, bark and even paper straws approximately 20cm long. These create perfect little hotel rooms. To finish, place wire mess across the front of your Bee Hotel to keep all the twigs in place. This will also help prevent local birds from pinching a one or two.
Where do I put it?
‘On holidays I know I love finding a cosy little sanctuary close to nature, restaurants and water to have a dip in. Bees are no different.’
Just like us they like protection from the searing sun, wind and rain. And they like nature to explore that’s free from chemicals. They love good food not too far away and a water source with little rock loungers that they can perch themselves on.
I know you will be excited to get started, I was too. But before you get the tools out, take a look around the garden for the best spot. Solitary bees tend to nest in low areas. Find a good spot between knee height and eye height – safely away from dogs or being stepped on.
Once your hotel is up and running, it shouldn’t take long before your first guests arrive! And then watch the roll on effect. Where there are bees and insects, there are birds. Where there are birds there are mammals and other animals and so on and so on.
This is just one easy way we can help make our environment a welcoming home for bees.
Allyson from Beecology gave me some great tips about how to create a biodiverse environment for bees – no matter if you live in a suburban home, apartment or farm.
Swap cuttings with neighbours
Bee’s immune systems are stronger and more resilient to disease if they ingest more than five pollen types. Swapping cutting with neighbours is a great way to cost effectively get more plant varieties in your garden and to also start a wider conversation about the importance of creating a biodiverse neighbourhood. When people see you making a simple change those good vibes may just rub off.
Back away from the lawn mower
You’re going to love this one. Simply mowing your lawn or trimming your hedges less gives those tiny flowers that native bees love so much time to grow.
Choose plants that flower more than once a year
This is a win-win for everyone. Your garden will look beautiful all year round and the bees will have year-round access to good food options.
Let your herbs flower.
Flowering herbs are a great medical for bees. And as Alison showed me, they make an excellent cup of all-natural tea too!
And the most important one…
Enjoy your own backyard
If you love your garden it’ll love you back. By giving bees the biodiverse environment they need so much, they will get busy paying you back ten-fold with healthier fruits, vegetables and plants.
Making small changes at home can have a huge impact on the whole environment around you. What changes have you to made to help protect our native bees?