Which pollinators do you have at your place?
SMALL FARMS NETWORK - AUTUMN 2021 - ENVIRONMENT
By Shanna Rogers
Senior Land Services Officer - Natural Resources Management
P: 02 6051 2241 | M: 0457 733 261 | E: firstname.lastname@example.org
It is estimated that 65 per cent of all flowering plants and some seed plants (e.g. cycads and pines) require insects for pollination. The movement of pollen from one flower to another of the same species is an essential step in the fertilisation of plants and the development of the fruit and seeds needed for reproduction.
One in every three bites of food we eat is made possible by pollinators. Insects pollinate almonds, canola, orchard fruits, wine grapes and vegetable crops. They also pollinate lucerne, cotton, native pasture, native trees and shrubs. We require pollinator insects for food security and to maintain healthy ecosystems.
The Wild Pollinator Count is a great way to find out what pollinators you have in your local area.
During the week of 11 – 18 April, people across Australia are encouraged count pollinator insects, report their observations and help build a database on wild pollinator activity. All you need to do is:
- Choose a sunny, warm and calm day
- Find a flowering plant or tree
- Watch for 10 minutes
- Record any insect that visits the flowers
- Submit your observations to the Wild Pollinator Count (www.wildpollinator.com) or via Wild Pollinator Count on the iNaturalist app.
While the European honey bee (Apis mellifera) is one of the most recognisable insects and a well-known pollinator, there are literally thousands of other insect species that are important for pollination. Australia has around 2,000 native bee species, all of which are important pollinators. Other insect species, such as wasps, butterflies, flies, moths, beetles, thrips and ants may also be important pollinators.
We don’t have a lot of information on the ecology of many of these insects, what flowers they pollinate, or where they are found. This is why the Wild Pollinator Count is so important – it gives everyone an opportunity to build wild pollinator knowledge and contribute to wild pollinator insect conservation in Australia.
In addition to participating in the Wild Pollinator Count, you can directly help pollinators by:
- Planting native vegetation in your garden or on the farm. Native plants provide habitat for pollinators by providing them with pollen and nectar for food and cover from the elements and predators. The best way to attract beautiful butterflies, bees, lady bugs and other beetles is to fill your garden or bush block with native plants.
- Give bees nesting places. Native Australian bees are mostly solitary and build their nests in existing environments like hollow logs, holes in trees, burrows in the ground and hollows in dead plants. They will even set up house in cracks in building walls. You can create nesting places by drilling holes into logs or using lengths of bamboo placed horizontally near food and water sources.
- Planting species that flower right through the year. Many native bees need nectar and pollen throughout the year. Although many of the solitary species, such as blue-banded bees and resin bees, only fly in the warm months, others, such as stingless bees, reed bees and carpenter bees fly on warm days all year round. So choose plants with a long flowering period or a selection of plants that will flower in sequence in each season of the year.
- Selecting flowers with a variety of colours and shapes. Different kinds of bees like different kinds of flowers.
- Avoid insecticides where possible. Insecticides will kill native bees and pollinators as well as garden pests. Try to avoid using any insecticides in your garden, or choose insecticides with low toxicity for bees, apply when bees are not active (such as in cold weather or at night) and avoid spraying the flowers of the plant.
- Protect areas of existing native vegetation, including grasslands and wetlands. Most bees will fly a few hundred metres from their nests to the flowers they visit for nectar and pollen. Protecting areas of native vegetation can increase the number and diversity of wild pollinators visiting crops and increase the crop yield.
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