By: Michael Fox
Australia has over 2,000 species of solitary native bees of which twelve have been identified within Mt Gravatt Conservation Reserve. My first introduction to these special locals was wondering about the green insect flying past while we were having coffee outside. A video captured this female Leafcutter Bee flying into the back of the cat’s scratching post with pieces of leaf rolled between her legs to make a nest for her eggs. Solitary native bees do not form colonies and make honey.
The initial aim of the Pollinator Link® project was to create wildlife links between urban bushland with Water, Food and Shelter in backyards, balcony gardens, schoolyards, etc. Pollinator Link® team is proactively increasing invertebrate diversity with the Guardian Bee Home project and promoting the importance of Plant Local to Feed Local.
The support of Cr Fiona Hammond – Marchant Ward, allowed a trial of solitary Bee Homes based on the UK Mason Bee Guardian Scheme. Eighteen Guardian Bee Homes were installed in
and Terry Hanson Reserve at Chermside, and Crosby Road Bushcare at Albion.
Part of the trial was to test the effectiveness of the Mr Fothergill’s Small Bee And Insect House from Bunnings, which we believed were poorly designed: tubes too short and diameters too large, and likely to damage to our native bee population rather than help. Bunnings “Bee Houses” were co-located with with the Guardian Bee Homes for comparison.
The target species for the Bee Homes are “Borders” like Leaf-cutter and Resin Bees which find a suitable hollow to make a nest. For the trial we used a mix of tubes from UK Mason Bees (7mm), Crown Bees USA (7mm) and simple paper straws (6mm) from BigW.
The tubes 15 to 16 cm long allowing for a healthy mix of female (laid first) and male eggs. Males bees hatch first then wait for the females to hatch. The females are also the most important: they do all the work, so having male eggs at the front of the tubes adds a layer of protection from attack by predators.
The UK and USA tube have removable inners that allow for filled tube to sent to a central location for processing and distribution to other locations. Replacing the inners each season reduces the risk of parasite build-up keeping keep the solitary bee population healthy.
Leaf-cutter Bees at Crosby Road Bushcare used leaves of Native sarsaparilla Hardenbergia violacea. The female cuts circular sections out of the leaves before rolling up to carry off to their nest site.
The most successful Bee Homes were installed between 1 and 1.5m above ground, received morning sun with shade during the middle of the day and afternoon.
The design successfully handled multiple storms without damage to the bee tubes. However, they did not survive the attention of an enterprising Ringtail Possum Pseudocheirus peregrinus who threw out the bee nesting tubes and moved in.
As we expected the Mr Fothergill’s Small Bee And Insect House from Bunnings were not effective with some actually falling on the ground. The only insects that used these houses were Grass-carrying Wasps and ants.
Read the final report: Native Solitary Bee Home Trial
The next step is a larger scale Guardian Bee Home trial with Pollinator Link® gardeners.
Reblogged this on Queensland Stories and commented:
Interesting project trialling different types of bee homes in Brisbane parks. It’s all good unless a possum decides to take up residence!
Pingback: Bee Guardian Project – Stage 2 Trial | Pollinator Link