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Let pollinators bee the change in your garden

Thursday 12 November 2020

About one third of the world’s food crops depend on insect pollinators, and it turns out the yield and quality of other crops are higher when visited by bees. Many of Australia’s native plants also rely on pollinating insects.

In Eurobodalla, birds and bats also pollinate and spread seed of native plants and forest trees. As spring turns into summer, National Pollinator Week, 8 to 15 November, is the perfect time to help out these indispensable bugs, birds and bats.

Native bees have co-evolved with native plants for millions of years – some Australian plants completely depend on native bees for pollination. Native bees come in different sizes, colours and patterns. The smallest is the yellow Quasihesma bee – just larger than a pinhead – the largest is the great carpenter bee that is over two centimetres long. Of course, the blue-banded and teddy-bear bees, common in urban and suburban areas, will be familiar to most gardeners.

The best way to help all bees is to plant more flowers. That can be native plants like banksias, melaleucas, grevilleas and eucalypts or non-natives like perennial basil, salvias and lavenders. Aim to have something in flower all year round.

While European honey bees and native social bees live in hives or build their own nets, you can encourage native solitary bee species by providing bee hotels. A quick Google search will give you plenty of ideas but pithy stems and holes in timber are a must.

The plants that attract bees will also encourage the larger pollinators, with birds doing the day shift and bats doing the night shift. Because birds and bats can travel larger distances – flying foxes can fly up to 50 kilometres each night – they increase genetic diversity in plant populations. This creates ecosystems with more resilience, which is even more important as landscapes become more fragmented.

Bloodwoods and spotted gums are flying-fox favourites, while pollinating birds are attracted to callistemons, grevilleas and melaleucas - both will try out all sorts of native and non-native varieties. With all the rain this year, many plants will be producing more than their fair share of flowers, fruits and seeds for these busy pollinators – right in your backyard.

Eurobodalla Council offers residents bush-friendly garden visits to help residents make the best choices for native plants that will delight pollinators.