The health of bushland depends upon insect pollinators; without this free service many plant species would be lost.
Indigenous plants and pollinators have evolved together, developing relationships that are essential to each other's survival.
Native bees are most efficient pollinators; females visit hundreds of flowers, collecting pollen and nectar as food for their young, incidentally pollinating the plants as they go. Butterflies, beetles, wasps and other insects can also be pollinators.
Some native bee species are floral generalists meaning they visit many different species of plants; others depend upon a single species or group of native plants. Likewise, some flora species depend upon pollination by a single native bee species.
Many native bees, including Blue-banded Bees, are buzz pollinators. This means they vibrate muscles at incredibly high speeds to get flowers to release very tightly held pollen. European Honey-bees don't have this ability to 'buzz' native flowers.
Encourage pollinators to visit your garden.
To encourage more native pollinators to visit your garden, plant a wide range of flowering indigenous plants and create nooks and crannies of shelter, like the insect hotels seen here. Also, avoid the use of insecticides and herbicides in the bushland and at home.
The making of the Pollinator Garden.
On the 16th of April, 2015, work was begun to create a Pollinator Garden at the FOWSP nursery in Pound Bend.
The area already has some established bee residences but despite the presence of some flowers in pots nearby and a water bath with lots of mature Lythrum salicaria (a favourite of the Blue Banded bee) no bees had, as yet, taken up residence.
With the knowledge that native bees prefer to live close to their pollen supply, as they can’t fly too far for food, FOWSPians decided to create a garden full of plants that the native bees could utilize in the hope that they would then take up residence in the established housing.
The area was extremely dry; in fact the soil was aquaphobic – water beads and rolls off the surface. To overcome this problem, swales, or shallow ditches, were dug across the slope. The ditches would hold the water until it soaked in and, in the future, catch the rain before it travelled off the downward slope. Hardy native flora; tolerant of very dry conditions, such as those on Fourth Hill, were planted in the bottom of the swales.
All the plants were guarded against rabbits and wallabies. Care was taken not to impinge too harshly on the Microlaena stipoides lawn that grew naturally in this area or the roots of the tree large gums. Naturally with a lot of watering and a little nurturing such as the addition of chip bark and weed eradication, the plants have thrived.
Another example of bee housing was added to the garden - red gum posts with 4mm holes drilled in them to a depth of 100mm. Initially the tops of the posts were pointed in all directions but it didn’t take long to discover that the bees preferred to live in those that faced North West. As a consequence of the resin bees moving into this side only the posts have now all been orientated in this direction.
Our mud brick housing has still not been colonized by bees but the red gum posts host a number of resin bees.
The Pollinator garden has become more than just an attractive place for native bees to reside. It has become a resource for staff to demonstrate to nursery visitors and FOWSPians what some of our native flora looks like when it matures.
Plus a Exocarpos cupressiformis has emerged in the garden.
To see the creation of the Pollinator Garden in pictures, click here.
To see some of the flowers in the Pollinator Garden, click here.