Order in the Chaos – Part I: Flying Cats and Triangle Slugs

This gallery contains 16 photos.

Originally posted on Mildly Extreme:
After my adrenaline-pumping rock climbing fiasco, it’s time for a complete change of pace. Sit back, relax, and let me take you on a little journey into the wild. Unlike the unfortunate experience of Christopher…

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Get with the Buzz at Elorac Place

By: Michael Fox

The Pollinator Link® team was proud to be invited to be part of the Health and Wellbeing Expo organised by the Elorac Place Community Centre in Ellen Grove.

It was a pleasure to experience the community spirit created by the Centre team including Tania Kelsey, the energetic Community Capacity Coordinator.

Our newest Pollinator Link® volunteer Andy Howe shared his passion for pollinators with the audience introducing them to our amazing solitary native bees.

Andy talking pollinators - 17 Oct 2019

Andy Howe Ecologist

Andy has recently returned from Denmark where his research was focused on pollinators using wildflowers on nature strips in urban spaces. Andy also worked with local government to design of storm water infrastructure to retain more water for the attractive wildflower nature strips.

One of Andy’s tips is to plant blue, yellow and white flowering plants. For plants that will thrive in your garden download GroNative app. Plant Local to Feed Locals will also bring more butterflies, as well as bees, to your garden. Blue Pincushion Brunonia australis is an attractive local that would typically have grown in the Ellen Grove area.

 

Guardian home - 17 Oct 2019

The Expo was also a soft launch for the Pollinator Link® Guardian scheme which aims to bring our solitary native bees back to urban habitats. The Guardian scheme is based on a similar scheme in the UK: Mason Bees UK, with formal roll-out depending on research of specifications required for local species.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What’s in your garden today?

By: Michael Fox

Thanks to Georgia Nierfeld for great video of a Bee Hawk Moth Cephonodes kingii in her family’s Pollinator Link® front garden at Chandler.

Great Carpenter Bee -Xylocopa (Koptortosoma) aruana 2 - Chandler - Nov 2019 - Georgia

Great Carpenter Bee (female)

Georgia also found a female Great Carpenter Bee Xylocopa (Koptortosoma) aruana. Australia’s largest solitary bee the female chews a nest in soft timber such as dead limbs of a mango tree. The females (see photograph below) have glossy black abdomens and bright yellow waistcoats.

Australia has over 2,000 species solitary native bees that need specialist homes you can make.

Caper White - Belenois java - male - 11 Nov 2019

I photographed this male Caper White Belenois java butterfly this morning along the Eastern Outlook Track Mt Gravatt Conservation Reserve.

Caper Whites periodically visit Brisbane in huge numbers. However, there are always some of these attractive butterflies visiting the Reserve in spring. Our National Tree Day plantings include Brush Caper Berry Capparis arborea caterpillar food plant for the Caper White so hopefully we will see butterfly population increasing.

 

 

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Proud Builders: New Homes for Solitary Bees

 

By: Michael Fox

 

Providing Water, Food and Shelter are the key to bringing Birds, Butterflies and Bees back to our urban habitats.

The Construction Team gathered at Downfall Creek Environment Centre to build new homes for our homeless city bees.

 

Solitary Bee Homes - ver 5.0Clearing all the bush and covering the ground with houses, roads and even lawns means that solitary native bees have a shortage of housing in our cities. Australia has over 2,000 species of solitary bees. Some, like female Leaf-cutter and Resin Bees are boarders that look for hollows where they can make a nest to fill with pollen and nectar before laying their eggs. Teddy Bear and Blue Banded Bees are burrowers that nested in ground now covered by roads. Borers, like Green Carpenter and Great Carpenter Bees, chew into soft timber to make a nest.

 

Drill Hammer Paint - 20 Oct 2019

The Bee Home kits were made from reused hardwood ply donated by Benchmark Scaffolding at Yatala. Construction skills required included pre-drilling nail holes in the hardwood, nailing the kits together and painting with eco-friendly Lanotec made with lanolin. Proud builders - 20 Oct 2019

A proud team of constructors with their new Bee Homes ready for installation.

 

 

 

 

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Christmas Gift Ideas

By: Michael Fox

Looking for Christmas gift ideas for others or for yourself?

Two excellent books I have read this year are Habitat by AB Bishop and Feeding the Birds at Your Table by Darryl Jones.

Habitat AB Bishop

Habitat: A practical guide to creating a wildlife-friendly Australia gardens – AB Bishop

AB Bishop, horticulturist and presenter on Gardening Australia, has produced a well written guide with easy to action information on how to bring Birds, Butterflies and Bees back to our urban habitats. Importantly this is not simply a DIY guide, AB also underpins the action steps with accessible detail of the science and terminology.

I particularly liked the Plant Directory section that started with a climate zone map followed by a beautifully presented plant guide that will inform and inspire your garden planting.GroNative card heading

If your gift is for a gardener in South East Queensland the Griffith University GroNative app. (iPhone/Google Play) will be an excellent complement to the book.

Feeding Birds at Your TableFeeding the Birds at Your Table: A Guide for Australia – Darryl Jones

Buying a gift for family or friend who loves to feed birds in their backyards?

Griffith University’s Darryl Jones book disperses many myths about feeding our Australian birds and provides practical information on feeding.

If you are feeding our 2017 Bird of the Year the Australian Magpie, drop the mince or salami junk food which are not a suitable substitute for the bird’s natural diet, even commercial pet food made for dogs and cats is a surprising better option.

iNaturalist header

Love to feed birds in your backyard? Contribute to our knowledge of birds in our urban habitats with iNaturalist app. All the data you collect will add to the knowledge base of Atlas of Living Australia.

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UK Solitary Bee Guardian Scheme

By: Michael Fox

Our cocoon-sharing program is the only one of its kind in the UK and makes caring for red mason bees even more accessible by taking out some of the dirtier, trickier elements of the process.

It’s the perfect way to get started if you’re new to the world of solitary bees!

Chris Whittles MasonBees UK

 

 

Meeting Chris and John Whittles at their Shrewsbury, MasonBees UK business has been a highlight of my travels. Chris is an agronomist by training and founder of the very successful CJ Wildlife: suppliers of species specific bird feeders and food. Chris’ focus on research means over 80 species are now being fed, up from an initial 18 species. Chris’ research has also demonstrated the importance of year round feeding for UK garden birds. Chris was also interviewed by Daryl Jones for his excellent book The Birds at My Table: Why We Feed Wild Birds and Why It Matters.

 

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Bee Lodge & nesting tubes

John and Chris produce solitary bee homes in different formats like this Bee Lodge(TM) that includes a removable draw. Great for educational purposes as the individual Mason or Leaf-cutter nest cells to be observed through clear plastic panel. 

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Viewing draw

 

Designs are evolving with experience, for example, longer nesting tubes increasing bee production. However, at this time, the most common design in use is a simple pipe firmly clamped to a support with a slight downward angle for drainage. The pipe is filled with bundles of nesting tubes. 

Pipe Bee Lodge - close - 30 Aug 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chris’ agronomist background means that he has a strong focus on research and innovation as well as a focus on scale-ability of their solitary bee project. 

 

  • Narrow species focus: Red Mason Bee Osmia bicornus
    • Adopting a narrow species focus has allowed refinement of Bee Home design to maximise reproductive success.
  • Development of easy maintenance nesting tubes
    • Two part cardboard nesting tubes:
      • Inner tubes are easily removed when full. Tubes are then soaked in water to release the cocoons ready for storage over winter. 
      • Soaking nest tube - photo - masonbees

        Soaking nest tubes – Photo: MasonBees UK

        Outer tubes are then refitted with clean inner tubes ready for next season. 
    • Working this way dramatically reduces build up of parasites in nest tubes and pheromones retained in outer tubes attract bees back next season. 
  • Guardian Scheme 
    • Probably the most innovative initiative is establishment of the Guardian Scheme which allows bee lovers, gardeners and farmers right across the UK to be part of a native bee recovery programme.
    • Guardians make an initial investment in a Guardian Kit then send mud-capped tubes back in September. In return, Guardians are told what was found inside their tubes and they are sent new cocoons in spring – along with a replacement tube refill for each one sent in.
    • Over 1,000 Guardians are now active across the United Kingdom. 

 

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Chris collecting nest tubes

Chris and John are proud of the success of the Guardian Scheme. So we visited Attingham’s Walled Garden, a local site where Bee Homes have been installed progressively over the past five years. 

 

When they started installing the Bee Homes the apple orchard section of the Garden had never produced a crop. The day we visited the apple trees were heavy with fruit. Productivity across the whole garden had improved dramatically with the help of the solitary native bee pollinators. 

 

 

Thanks to Chris and John for your generous time sharing your experience. 

 

 

 

 

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Solitary bees at Kew Gardens UK

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Hauke & collection of Kew bees

By: Michael Fox

Passionate about native bees with a love of sharing his knowledge Dr Hauke Koch PHD was a generous host for my personal tour of Kew Gardens solitary Bee Homes.

Hauke explained that his research focuses on bee microbiome: complex combination of of microorganisms found in plants and animals,  including microbial parasites and the bacterial gut microbiota. He is looking at ways of improving native bee health by understanding the food value of pollen and nectar of different plants while reducing risk of parasite attack.

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Solitary Bee Homes

Solitary nesting and the diversity of native bee species: around 240 species in UK and over 2,000 solitary Bee species in Australia, mean that these valuable pollinators are less likely to be impacted by diseases the way European Honey bees have been.

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Observation window open 

Removing the panel from the side allows the nesting activity to be monitored. Top orange rows are resin bee nests and the lower green rows are leaf-cutter bee nests.

The female bee prepares a nest then fills it with nectar and pollen before an egg is laid and nest is sealed. Another nest is then prepared.

The 150 to 170mm depth of the nest tunnels is vital because the female eggs are laid first then male eggs are laid close to the entry. If the tunnel is too short only a few female eggs will be laid before male eggs are laid to fill the tunnel.

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Neatly rolled leaf-cutter nest

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Leaf-cutter bee nests are made by rolling sections of leaves cut from plants like roses or ginger. The cigar shaped nest is filled and sealed.

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Modular units

The Bee Homes are made with removal modular units that allow for different sizes for different bees  and facilitate cleaning with soapy water at end of the season. Cleaning reduces risk of parasites building up in Bee Homes.

The cage around the entry keeps woodpeckers from attacking the nest tunnels.

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Bumble Bee nest box

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One thing I didn’t realise is that Bumble Bees are actually social bees even though they don’t create hives and make honey.

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Grass and wool is used by Bumble Bees for nesting materials.

A number of Bumbles Bees will nest together in the one box using grass and wool to create nests.

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Bumble Bee species of Kew

Kew Gardens support eight species of Bumble Bees.

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Kew research laboratory

Hauke also took me on a tour of the sophisticated laboratory used by researchers.

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Solitary Bees found in Kew

Another surprise was the number of solitary bees that are tiny. I told Hauke that I have identified eight solitary bee species in Mt Gravatt Conservation Reserve including the beautiful Green Carpenter Bee Xylocopa (Lestis) aeratus. Hauke pointed out that there are probably a lot more to identify because so many species are tiny.

Thank you to Dr Hauke Koch PHD for your generous sharing of your time and research.

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