Pollinator Link® is a non-profit initiative of Mt Gravatt Environment Group.
The Pollinator Link® project aims to bring wildlife back to our urban by providing Water, Food and Shelter for birds, butterflies and bees. Your free garden registration will support our work with local councils as well as helping us influence plant nurseries to stock local native species.
Imagine your backyard alive with colour and birdsong. The quiet hum of bees in your veggie patch. You leave the city behind as you come home and relax with the peaceful sounds of nature.
Watching bushland being bulldozed to build more houses is always heart-breaking so it was inspiring to learn about a developer, Ginninderry, that is restoring, not destroying habitat.
April in Canberra, I attended the inspiring Planting for Pollinators: Maximising Biodiversity in Urban Design conference hosted by ACT for BEES and Ginninderry.
I was particularly keen to take part, as the conference set out to show that it is possible to profitably create new housing stock and strong liveable communities, while maintaining or creating urban wildlife habitat.
“This conference was specifically targeted for those within the Urban Design, Landscape Architect, Planning and Development Industries – both private and government sectors and included speakers from industry and government to inform why pollinator corridors are important, the planning process including how RedBox Designs planned for 200 metre grids of year-round flowering for native bees, the use of ACT Govt Plant Species for Urban Landscape Projects, climate adaptation and tree selection and community support.” Julie Armstrong ACT for BEES.
Dr Matthew Frawley, Landscape Manager, Ginninderry made some significant points that particularly struck me as aligning with the Pollinator Link #WaterFoodShelter in urban habitat.
“More than a third of the land at Ginninderry is being set aside as a Conservation Corridor. The Corridor will total 577 hectares and will include the land adjacent to the Murrumbidgee River and Ginninderry Creek. The size and boundaries of the Corridor were determined scientifically to protect the endangered Pink-Tailed Worm Lizard habitat, conserve Yellow Box Red Gum Grassy woodland and to preserve the natural beauty of the landscape.” Ginninderry
Unlike many urban property developments the land being developed is old pastural land with only a scatting of trees. So land set aside as a Conservation Corridor means that over time wildlife habitat will be recreated surrounding the urban being created.
Even within the urban spaces the development team is researching and planning tree lined streets. House buyers are actively supported in establishment of pollinator friendly gardens with landscape designs for formal, informal edible gardens with lists of exotic and native plants.
Other presenters introduced valuable information on everything from choice of plants for pollinators, managing community expectations around street trees, research on Climate Adaptation Guided Tree Selection QPRC and engaging community support.
“Do you have a registered Pollinator Link® garden?”
As a registered Pollinator Link® garden you can become a Bee Guardian and citizen scientist researching ways to repopulate our city gardens with native solitary bees and answer the question: “How do I to get native bees to move into my Bee Home?”
Brisbane City Council sponsored the initial solitary bee home trial in three northside parks That trial proved the design works, with local Leafcutter bees using Native sarsaparilla Hardenbergia violacea for nesting materials. The design also survived Queensland’s storm season with no damage to the nesting tubes.
We are now recruiting gardens for larger city-wide trial will confirm those results and provide a core resource of Leafcutter bee cocoons to start repopulating urban habitats. Nesting tubes will allow cocoons to be collected and shared with new recruits.
The trial will again use a mix of different nesting tubes from Mason Bees UK and Crown Bees USA. Three different coloured Bee Homes will be used to test variations in nesting success.
Your Bee Guardian pack will include guides on where to place your Bee Home, suggestions on local bee attracting plants and guides to survey your garden and using iNaturalist to collect your findings.
After the trial Bee Guardian packs are expected to sell for $88. So take advantage of the trial and order your Bee Guardian pack for $33: available to registered Pollinator Link® gardeners.
Want to participate in trial but not a registered Pollinator Link® garden? Register your garden today to take advantage of the trial price for you Bee Guardian home.
A close up look at her eggs shows an interesting and distinctive shape.
Native Mulberry fruit is edible and this tree was planted as part of our 2013 Community Gully Day with property owners and other community members coming together to restore the Fox Gully Wildlife corridor. Koalas Phascolarctos cinereus and Squirrel Gliders Petaurus norfolcensis are now breeding in the gully between the houses.
The caterpillars will not eat a lot of your fruit tree while they reward you with extra colour as these beautiful butterflies flit around your garden. The caterpillars have a curious defence mechanism extending orange osmeterium that produce a decaying citrus smell to discourage predators.
It is mosquito season so we regularly check the drinkers for mossie larva. Something we were not expecting was finding mossie larvae that feed on other mossies and not people. Adult Toxorhynchites speciosus feed on plant juices not blood.
Check before you flush the mossie larvae in your birdbath. If you have some Toxorhynchites speciosus larvae perhaps scoop them out ready to return once your birdbath is refilled. Remember to also catch some of the small larvae to feed the mossie eating Toxorhynchites speciosus.
I am often asked: “How do I to get native bees to move into my Bee Home?”
People are often thinking of the Native Stingless Bees Tetragonula sp. which, unlike solitary native bees, form colonies and make honey. The colonies can be housed in hives allowing people to purchase a hive to install in their garden.
Solitary native bees make individual nests which are filled with pollen and nectar: not honey, for the bee larvae to feed on when hatched.
Removable inners create an opportunity to proactively bring solitary native bees to our urban backyards.
Similar to the Mason Bees UK and Crown Bees USA programs, filled tubes can be collected at a central location and replacement inners returned to prepare for the next season.
Filled tubes will be inspected then some returned and some used to send out to new Bee Guardians to hatch. Working this way we can maintain and build exiting populations while re-establishing solitary native bees in other urban spaces.
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.
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.
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.
Understanding the motivations and challenges of community members already engaged in creating urban wildlife habitat, is a valuable step in building communications strategies to drive behaviour change across the broader community. Therefore, Jake Slinger’s university research thesis Understanding community participation in urban conservation is a valuable resource for our aim of registering 30,000 Brisbane Pollinator Link® to create over 800 hectares of city wide wildlife habitat.
The research was conducted by questionnaire sent to 276 community members who currently received the Pollinator Link® newsletter with participants limited to the Greater Brisbane region.
The top three motivations identified for creating habitat gardens are:
• General environmental interest: a general interest or concern for nature. • Interest in flora/fauna: motivated by learning about flora and fauna. • Inspired by others: motivated by friends and family and/or events.
Challenges of providing resources for pollinators include some hard to fix factors like Council regulation. However, participants suggestions point to a range of action we can take to engage and empower community members to create wildlife habitat in their backyard or on their balcony garden.
Engaging kids by helping them learn to see interesting butterflies, beetles and bugs then be citizen scientists recording their finds in iNaturalist.
Help SEQ gardeners learn to Plant Local to Feed Locals with free GroNative app for smartphones. GroNative allows uses to input postcode and suburb to identify plants that originally grew in that area.
We have a list of community nurseries that typically stock local natives however the research suggests we need to promote this more aggressively.
Helping people think differently about their gardens will help address “societal dilemmas” like balancing what looks good to neighbours versus what is good for pollinators: rather than have a scrubby untidy backyard build a unique garden feature that provides safe shelter and food for small birds.