You may have heard in the media about the drastic demise of bees and other pollinators worldwide. Loss of habitat, pesticides, climate change and mites are contributing to this. Whilst honeybees in Australia are so far safe, the native bee population has taken a big hit in recent years with some estimating a 40% drop in numbers.
Why care? Bees, other insects and birds are vital for pollinating food crops and other plants we have in our gardens and parks. They help to ensure healthy and thriving ecosystems.
But things are looking up!
An exciting Sydney initiative is aiming to curb this loss with a new highway in town. Don’t panic, it’s not for cars - this one is for bees, butterflies and birds. The B & B Highway initiative - Bed & Breakfasts for Bees, Birds, Butterflies - aims to provide rest stops for pollinators stocked with the food and shelter they need. ‘Native bees need food and shelter every 500 metres, and that’s hard to find in our densely populated city, says Founder, Dr Judy Friedlander.
The B&B Highway is an initiative of the not-for-profit organisation PlantingSeeds, which is steered by eastern suburbs resident, Dr Friedlander, who also researches sustainability issues at the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology Sydney.
By creating pollinator pathways across Sydney, with hubs in schools and community centres, bees and other creatures have more chance of survival and doing what they do best
As Friedlander explains: ‘Research shows that urban areas can help to counter the decline as they offer biodiversity hotspots. As we build more and more B & Bs a bee “highway” will be created. Our vision is to create gardens and beehives all over Sydney forming green sanctuaries for pollinators and people alike.’
So far, over 30 B & Bs have been implemented, providing pollinator gardens and habitat, native stingless beehives and nesting boxes. Waverley suburbs can be proud to lay claim to being the first area to host B & Bs, with locations at the Junction Neighbourhood Centre Bondi Junction, the Moriah College’s Eastern Suburbs Banksia Scrub, St Anne’s Catholic Church Bondi and Community Housing in Bondi.
So how can you help support pollinators in your garden?
1. Select plants native to our area
2. Plant dense shrubs to allow smaller birds to hide from predatory birds. Bronte and Tamarama residents can get free advice and plants through the Living Connections project.
4. Add bee-friendly plants such as tea tree, honey myrtle and native rosemary – bees love blue and yellow flowers!
5. Complete the Winter Birds in Backyard Survey and learn about local birds via the Birdata app
7. Make your own insect hotel or solitary bee hotel, with some ideas here
The B & B Highway initiative is supported by the NSW Department of Education, which is developing associated curriculum. An exciting part of the project is a citizen science app called Pollinator P.I. (Private Investigator), which school children will be using to contribute to valuable baseline data to assist biodiversity outcomes.
If you are interested in your school or community centre hosting a B & B: