Bees are a vital component of our ecosystem. They pollinate flowers and help plants to reproduce. Bees don’t just pollinate plants such as wildflowers; they pollinate most of the crops we eat and crops that feed farm livestock. So simply put, without bees, the longevity of our livelihoods is at severe risk.
“But I thought bees just made honey?”
Yes – some bees do make honey, but others are there to pollinate. In Australia, we have two key categories of bees – native and honey bees. Australian native bees don’t store nectar and cannot produce honey in large volumes. We have over 2,000 species of native bees in Australia that contribute to pollinating wildflowers, native plants, and crops.
Since native bees are unable to produce honey, over 200 years ago, European honey bees were introduced to our ecosystem with the sole purpose of creating honey. Honey and other wax products generate approximately $100 million annually for the Australian economy. Honey bees are the most widespread managed pollinator. While they were introduced to make honey, they have co-evolved with our food production systems, and our crops also benefit from honey bee pollination.
“Okay, so why do we apparently need to save the bees?”
Our bee population is currently under threat because of several factors, including:
- Destruction of their natural habitat
- Use of insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, and fertilisers that are highly toxic to bees in agriculture and horticulture practices
- Pests and diseases
- A decline in commercial beekeeping.
Remember, without bees, we have no food security.
“What can I do to help?”
We can do several things as a community to help increase our bee populations.
One of the easiest methods is planting plants in your home or office garden that are highly attractive to bees and other wildlife. Think gardens boasting beautiful perennial blooms like our Camberwell Meadow or Waverley Rooftop project. You can also build or purchase pollinator houses to embed in your garden. Pollinator houses are designed to house native solitary nesting bees and help create pollinator corridors between our wild spaces for habitats affected by land clearing and urbanisation.
If you can’t plant a bee-friendly garden, you can donate to organisations such as the Wheen Bee Foundation, who are doing wonderful work in an effort to save our bee population. If you are genuinely passionate about bees, why not consider beekeeping at home? Thanks to companies such as Flow, it’s easier than ever to take up beekeeping. We recently purchased a Flow Hive 2+ to keep at our office in Canterbury, and our director Ian also has six hives at his family’s farm in Victoria’s North. Flow has also developed an excellent online beekeeping course, so if you’ve never done this before, their course will provide you with the guidance you need to begin your beekeeping journey.