Planting bee forage for honeybee and native bee nutrition offers major benefits to agricultural industries through increased rates of incidental pollination.
Some plants are strongly preferred by native bees, including native peas and daisies, eucalyptus, banksia, Acacia and Bursaria species, and some introduced garden plants like salvia and lavender. This is a very simple way to attract native bees to an area.
For a comprehensive list of plants that are beneficial to European honey bees and native bees, download the RIRDC report Bee Friendly: A planting guide for European honeybees and Australian native pollinators. It describes planting choices from the backyard to the bush, right across the nation, and will assist with increasing available bee food. Individuals, gardeners, municipalities, government land management authorities and farmers can make a difference.
Bees require a nest site, nest building materials and plants as a source of pollen and nectar. Native bees usually depend on undisturbed patches of bare soil, sand or clay banks and living and dead plant material as nesting sites.
In an effort to promote native bees in the local environment, man-made habitats are becoming more popular. Native bee houses or nesting sites can easily be constructed using a few materials, such as sand, clay, loose soil or hollow stems/bamboo. These can easily be placed in quiet, sheltered and sunny areas, either in or around farm sheds or placed in areas of native vegetation.
For more information about how to provide man-made habitats and nesting sites for native bees, visit Bees Business website, run by native bee researcher Dr Megan Halcroft.
Avoiding or reducing pesticide use is essential for protecting native bee pollinators. Pests can often be controlled by other means, for example by encouraging their natural predators and other means of cultural control.
For more information about how to minimise the use of chemicals which may affect honey bee and native bee populations, visit the BeeAware Pollination and pesticides pages.
Native bees do not travel as far as honeybees so they rely upon more local sources of nectar. If you are looking to increase the native bee population on your farm, it is important to manage remnant or natural areas of vegetation.
In agricultural regions, vegetative wind breaks or areas of natural or remnant vegetation could be managed as refuges for plants which support native bees. Farm-scale planning should recognise self-sustaining populations of nectar and pollen rich native shrubs (such as eucalypts, wattles, callistemon and banksia) as assets and protect them accordingly.
For more information about Australian native bees, and efforts to conserve native bees around the world, visit:
Australian Native Bee Research Centre
Michigan State University, Conserving native bees on farmland
The Xerces Society, Attracting native pollinators