With spring finally underway many Aussies will be thinking about how to keep their gardens looking in top condition over the warmer months. While most will be focussed on ensuring their plants get enough water as temperatures rise, one aspect that is often overlooked is the importance of helping bees and other pollinators thrive.
Researchers at Western Sydney University, with the support of Hort Innovation, are looking into the many pollination insects currently under threat – in particular the European honeybee – and looking to help our own Australian native bees ‘upskill’ and take over some of their important work.
Australia has over 2,000 types of native bees and Professor James Cook, researcher in pollination at Western Sydney University, believes it is important to understand the role native bees in particular play in pollinating and how each of us can help support our native bee population.
“Everyone can help support a healthy pollinator population by planting all sorts of different flowers and plants that will provide food for pollinating insects. When you are out in your garden, take a closer look at the little black bugs and flies that gather near flowers, and chances are they are there to pollinate your plants.”
To help Aussies ensure their gardens are as accommodating for our pollinators as possible this summer, Professor James Cook has shared his top five tips on how to help bees:
1. Avoid chemicals
Where possible avoid using chemicals when tending to your garden, as they can be harmful to bees and other pollinators. Any spraying that has to be done should take place at night to cause less harm.
2. Plant diverse species to entice pollinators
This could include trees such as flowering eucalypt, mid-height species like lilly pilly, grevillea and leptospermum and ground levels plants such as culinary herbs and daisies.
3. Embrace the weeds
Plants like dandelions are excellent bee pantries so where possible leave some of the flowering weeds in place. Leaving well-drained patches of exposed earth will also create a good grounding for solitary native bees to nest in.
4. Keep some length to your grass
Don’t regularly mow the lawn to extremely short levels as plenty of grass and other ground cover provides an excellent source of food and habitat for our bees.
5. Keep a look out for bees in small areas
Before you fill any small holes or cracks in masonry or brickwork, double check for any solitary bees that may be using the space as habitat
Professor James Cook is part of a team of 70 researchers at Western Sydney University that are exploring ideas for how we can adapt to a hotter, drier, climate change impacted future through 400 different research projects. Find out more online here or head to the University’s Earth IQ Facebook page.