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.



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. 


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. 



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


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.


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.







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.



Neatly rolled leaf-cutter nest


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.





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.


Bumble Bee nest box


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






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.






Bumble Bee species of Kew

Kew Gardens support eight species of Bumble Bees.






Kew research laboratory

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






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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Habitat for community and wildlife

By: Laurie Deacon

Team action - 28 April 2019

Restoration team hard at work

The Mt Gravatt State High School Pollinator Link® garden is a thriving habitat for wildlife and building links with the community.

Twenty-one volunteers from Griffith Mates and local streets joined students and family members.

Results: 50 hours of Bushcare including 40 natives planted to stabilise embankments and attract more butterflies. Weeding and mulching completed the work.

Proud volunteers - 28 April 2019

Volunteer Team

Thanks to Corrine McMillan MP for afternoon tea for our worker bees.

Date Claimer: Pollinator Link® Garden working bee is 12th May 3-5pm

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Circles in your rose leaves?


Megachile sp - flight - Feb10

Female Leafcutter bee making nest

By: Michael Fox

Do you have mysterious circles appearing in the leaved of your rose bushes? I videoed one of the culprits making a nest in the cat’s scratching post.

Autumn is nest building time for our native Leafcutter Bees Megachile sp.

Unlike Stingless Native Bees Tetragonula sp. or European Honey Bees Apis mellifera, Leafcutter Bees are solitary: not forming colonies.

Leaf-cutter Bee action on rose - 21 April 2019

Mysterious circles in rose leaves.

Female Leafcutters roll the cut the pieces of leaf between their legs then fly off to find a suitable hollow to make their nest. The leaf pieces are shaped into a cigar shape ready to be packed with pollen and nectar ready for egg laying. The eggs hatch in spring ready to go to work pollinating our gardens and forests.

Make a Leafcutter Bee Home.


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Building homes for birds and bees


By: Michael Fox

Kids and mud … always a winning formula.

Jake Slinger and I led a Pollinator Link® workshop for the Nature Rangers at Downfall Creek Bushland Centre yesterday.

Australia has over 2,000 species of solitary native bees. Solitary bees do not form live in a hive or produce honey however they are the most effective pollinators for our backyard vegetable gardens.

Blue Banded Amegilla sp. and Teddy Bear Amegilla sp. native bees do buzz pollination. Blue Banded bees shake pollen out by banging the flower with its head. Common edible plants such as tomatoes, blueberries and eggplant need buzz pollination which cannot be provided by European Honey bees.

Mud Puddling - 16 April 2019

Kids and mud 

Homes for Burrowers (Shelter)

Female Blue Banded and Teddy Bear bees make nests in the ground which they fill with pollen and nectar, lay their eggs then seal. When the egg hatch in spring the young bees feed on the stored food before burrowing out and getting to work pollinating our vegetable gardens.

Step 1: Make the mud. Garden soil, add water then stir with lots of laughter.





Step 2: Make a mud pie in concrete block. Add more laughter.





Step 3: Finish with starter holes for bees wanting to nest.

Leave Bee Home to dry then install in a place sheltered from rain.



Homes for Birds 

Bee Homes completed, the Nature Rangers worked on building nest boxes to provide homes for birds. Clearing trees for building houses means that there is a lack of nest hollows for birds and other species like Squirrel Gliders Petaurus norfolcensis.

Timber for the nest boxes is reused hardwood ply donated by Benchmark Scaffolding at Yatala and pre-cut at Carina Mens Shed. Box design came from “Nest boxes for wildlife: A practical guide” by Alan & Stacey Franks of Hollow Log Homes.

First step in box construction is learning to use a hammer correctly. It is less about size and strength and more about letting the weight of the hammer to do the work.

Blunting nails - 16 April 2019

Blunting nails


Everyone had a go at using a hammer and quickly got the hang of letting the hammer do the work. “That is much easier.”

Another tip we shared is to blunt nail heads when nailing timber that splits easily.





Jigs simplify assembly - 16 Aprild 2019

Jigs simplify construction


Jigs prepared at Carina Mens Shed are used to simplify assembly.




New bird homes - 16 April 2019

Finished nest boxes ready for installation


New homes ready for installation. The Downfall Creek team will arrange installation of the new homes for our homeless urban birds.





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Fox Gully Wildlife Corridor

By: Michael Fox

Kookaburra Legless Lizard - 11 March 2019



Benno and I spent Thursday morning restoring another section of Fox Gully Wildlife Corridor.

Laughing Kookaburras Dacelo novaeguineae love to join us at Bushcare, typically finding a handy perch where they are ready to swoop on any tasty snack like this legless lizard.


Some of the wildlife avoided the attentions of our Kookaburra visitor. We found a female Common Net-casting Spider Deinopis ravidus. Net-casting spiders have a fascinating technique for catching lunch. They don’t make a permanent web but sit with a net between their front legs ready to to catch ants, beetles or spiders.

Bark Cockroach - Laxta sp. - 11 April 2019

Bark Cockroach Laxta sp.


Bark Cockroachs Laxta sp. provide valuable recycling services composting leaf litter and improving soil.




Steps to gully - 11 April 2019

Gully access steps


Steep sides make gully restoration complex so the first step is building access steps. Working from the bottom clearing weeds facing uphill is much safer and faster. Logs or recycled hardwood can then be installed to provide a safe work place and manage erosion.

Restoring the Wildlife Corridor is community effort to clear rubbish and remove the invasive Madeira Vine Anredera cordifolia in the backyards linking Mt Gravatt Conservation Reserve down to Klumpp Road. We are working with Cr Steve Hung to develop a plan for a wildlife bridge across Klumpp Road to link to Roly Chapman Bushland Reserve.



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Rail Trails

Disused country and urban rail easements present excellent opportunities to create wildlife corridors as well as people paths.

Queensland Stories

“We power on, trying to sense the walls beside us, ears and eyes straining for anyone coming from the other direction. It’s like holding your breath with your eyes.”

Cycling through a tunnel on the rail trail near Matarraña, Spain. Scary, but exciting, according to Con O’Brien, author of The Ebro Drift blog.

The Matarraña trail is just one of thousands of rail trails all over the world. Rail tracks no longer in use are pulled up, railbeds resurfaced, bridges and tunnels checked for safety. In some places old station buildings are converted to cafes or guesthouses. Railway gradient is perfect for cyclists and walkers, the countryside is interesting, and whether for long journeys or short sections, the trails provide great opportunities to exercise and travel at the same time.

Rail trails are international tourism magnets.

IMG_1996 Railway track just visible through the wildflowers on The High Line, NYC

In New…

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Building highway for wildlife Karawatha Forest

Compton Road fauna bridge lr

Compton Road Wildlife Bridge 2018

By: Michael Fox

A beautiful day for a walk in the bush. I joined Professor Darryl Jones, Griffith University and members of Karawatha Protection Society for a field trip to explore the Fauna Movement Solutions linking Kuraby Forest and Karawatha Forest across Compton Road.

The discipline of Movement Ecology only developed around 2002 so building this innovative wildlife bridge in 2005 was a bold step. At the time traffic on the two lane Compton Road was rapidly increasing with a consequent increase in road kill. The Brisbane City Council decision to widen the road to four lanes was both a threat and an opportunity if the partnership of Karawatha Protection Society and Griffith University could change the existing thinking from protect wildlife by keeping it off the road to making the road ‘transparent’ to wildlife.

Micro-bat corridor use lr

Micro-bats use wildlife bridge

In his presentation Darryl Jones highlighted the importance of community groups in driving change even when the science is clear. What makes this project courageous is the fact that the science of Movement Ecology was only just evolving and researchers have since found many unexpected results.


Small birds are one surprising user of the wildlife bridge. Small birds will normally not cross a wide gap in the forest canopy so being limited to an island habitat they are vulnerable local extinction events like bushfire. The other surprise is the behaviour of micro-bats. The concrete arch sections have become unexpected Shelter with micro-bats making homes in the gaps in arch sections. Each night the bats emerge to forage in the surrounding forests. Monitoring with ultrasonic (anabat) recorders shows no activity above the road (white), significant activity about 100 metres from the road (yellow) however the wildlife bridge itself was a hotspot (bright red) for micro-bat activity transiting from forest to forest.

Wildlife corridor

New Illaweena Street wildlife bridge

As part of the Logan [Motorway] Enhancement Project Transurban Queensland is building sophisticated fauna movement solutions including a new wildlife bridge across Illaweena Street which will reduce the road kill on that increasingly busy road and allow for future expansion to four lanes. Combined with underpasses and rope bridges this will create excellent fauna movement solutions linking Kuraby through Karawatha Forest to habitat at Parkinson.


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