Wangaratta Chronicle - North East Regional Extra - - Front Page - WITH MANDI HE­LEN

THE lit­tle fly­ing crit­ters that pop­u­late our gar­den fas­ci­nate me.

The fourth clutch of res­i­dent house swal­lows fledged in early Jan­uary.

Whilst we sit on the ve­ran­dah and en­joy our morn­ing cof­fee, it’s de­light­ful to watch about a dozen fam­ily mem­bers feed­ing mid-air - zip­ping and cir­cling in com­plex loops.

Judg­ing by the amount of guano be­neath the mud nest by our front door, the larder is plen­ti­fully sup­plied.

As we sit, we watch bees and but­ter­flies and other pol­li­na­tors hov­er­ing and set­tling on the gar­den blooms.

The but­ter­flies need a flat­tish plat­form to land on, and daisies are a pop­u­lar choice.

There are al­ways lots of bees – im­ported Euro­pean honey bees are the most nu­mer­ous, but if I look more closely, I of­ten see some tiny ‘lo­cals’. Buzzy fuzzy blue-banded bees are my favourites. Like many na­tive bees, they are solitary. They do not store any honey in their tiny nests. Sin­gle fe­males each mate with a male. They lay their eggs in a suit­able hol­low and plug it up to keep their eggs se­cure.

When the ba­bies hatch, they dig their way out and fly away. In­spired, I’ve made my own lo-tech bee ho­tel. It’s a 20 litre metal drum filled with scrap blocks of wood into which I drilled lots of var­i­ous-sized holes. It’s propped up fac­ing east. This two-star ho­tel has be­come a pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion for na­tive bees to lay their eggs. Some are in­cu­bat­ing. Oth­ers have hatched. I’m hop­ing that many of them will sur­vive and not be­come a tasty snack for our hun­gry swal­lows. There are over 1500 dif­fer­ent Aus­tralian na­tive bees. To learn more, there is a new down­load­able pub­li­ca­tion: “Pol­li­na­tor In­sects of the South West Slopes of NSW and North East Vic­to­ria –An iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and con­ser­va­tion guide” that can be found on­line at wild­pol­li­na­tor­­sources/guide/.

It’s a great easy-to-use re­source for all ages.


HELP­ING HAND: A ba­sic “bee ho­tel” that lo­cal woman He­len van Riet has con­structed at her prop­erty near Wan­garatta.

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