Australia is home to around 2,000 species of bee (out of the 20,000 species across the world). These bees have co-evolved with our native plants and flowers over thousands of years.
Why do we need bees?
Without bees, our ecosystem is at risk. Bees pollinate many of our plants by carrying pollen between plants. Carrying pollen between these plants helps them reproduce flowers, fruits and vegetables.
Nearly two-thirds of Australia’s agricultural production benefits from bee pollination. Numerous studies show that the addition of bees to crops at a time when plants are flowering significantly increases both and quality and quantity of produce.
What types of bees do we need?
Australia has over 2,000 species of native bees ranging from the large yellow and black Carpenter bees down to tiny Quasihesma bees.
Native bees are used together with honey bees for crop pollination.
What are the different types of native and honey bees?
Both honeybees and native bees play an important role in pollinating plants.
The main difference between native bees and honeybees is that native bees don’t store nectar and therefore don’t produce honey. Native bees are likely to be better pollinators, this is because native bees can visit and pollinate up to several hundred flowers a day.
European honeybees were introduced into Australia to assist with honey production.
Find a list of native bees in your area here.
Why are bees in danger?
Bee populations are under threat from destruction of their natural habitat through intensive farming, pests, and diseases. This affects the population of bees, as well as the diversity of bees in Australia.
How can you help?
Plant bee-friendly plants
The best way to help bees is to plant things that flower (not just flowers) – they particularly love anything purple or blue. Also, avoid spraying your plants and flowers as pesticides as these are a threat to bees.
Grow all-year round
Bees in Australia don’t hibernate (unless they’re in a region that gets snow) so they need to acquire nectar all year round. It’s helpful to grow a mix of plants - so something that flowers in the garden each season - especially in late winter and early spring when hives are low on honey and nectar is scarce.
Buy local honey
Buying local is always better, as it reduces pollution due to minimised travel and localised supply chain. Local honey is also better for you as supermarket honey is often pasteurised and has added sugar. Buying local honey supports the community of local bees.
Make a bee hotel
Make native bees feel welcome by building a ‘hotel’ for them. It’s best to use scrap items or things around the home - you can make one with tubes of bamboo or untreated timber with holes drilled into it (a mixture of 3mm to 10mm wide works best). Alternatively, Bee Hotels are also available online.
Reduce your risk of being stung
Some bees can sting, and if you’re allergic to their venom, the effects of a bee sting can be devastating. First and foremost, the best advice to avoid bee stings is to be careful in their presence and keep your distance where you can. It’s far less likely you’ll be stung by a native bee than a European honeybee, as they’re more aggressive when defending their hive. Native bees generally don’t build hives to protect which means getting stung isn’t very likely, and the native bees that do build hives are in-fact stingless.
If you are stung by a bee, stay calm and remove the sting by scraping your fingernail across it – rather than pulling it out. If pain persists or the swelling increases, see a doctor.