Landcare leaders keeping the buzz going

Clarence Native Bees Landcare (CNBL) has recently developed and successfully implemented a new model on the North Coast of New South Wales for protecting busy social pollinators and biodiversity specialists – the native stingless bees.

The model has taken nearly two years to achieve, beginning as a project idea, before nabbing a 25th Landcare Anniversary Grant and culminating in a series of workshops, training and consultation processes.

Working closely with EPA, Roads and Maritime Services and associated contractors, CNBL developed a protocol document to guide operational processes for rescuing native stingless bees along the 112km Pacific Highway realignment between Grafton and Ballina in Northern NSW.

A native bee hive being restabilised into a new hive box.

An integral part of this protocol is the knowledge and skills provided to clearing contractors and ecologists in the identification and removal of damaged hive nests from felled trees.   Primarily, fauna survey processes now also include identification of native stingless bee hives, and any tree identified with a hive in it is also marked as a habitat tree.

Once trees are felled, the hive nests are removed by ecologists through a series of processes guided by the rescue protocols.   While the protocol may be guiding these rescue operations, it is the dedicated volunteers and their specialised knowledge that are making the real difference with native stingless bee rescues.

On continuous call and driving up to 100km several times a week to meet ecologists on site, bee rescuers readily exchange equipment for buckets of hives or small damaged logs.

Bee rescuers say that restabilising a hive can be tricky, as each hive varies. Some hives have very few resources and others are loaded with sugar bags, which are a sticky affair and can become a real mess.

Other hives come with predators such as ants, beetles, and wasps that are individually removed before placing the hive nests into special positions.  Appropriate food resources and other materials associated with the pheromone of the hive nests are also placed alongside the hives into their allocated rescue boxes.  This technique will ensure the survival of the bees and the brood while the worker bees gradually rebuild their nest.

A specifically designed monitoring form is completed for each individual rescue with data recorded from the field, rescue, restabilisation and final relocation of hives.  This process is carefully coordinated by rescue coordinator Laura Noble, who also places the restabilised hives with carers into areas that will promote their survival.

Carers will maintain the hives for up to 60 days or more until links and partnerships with community organisations and schools can be established; hives will then be provided to schools along with volunteer support.

For more information, contact Susan Moore on 02 6643 5009 or susan.moore@clarencelandcare.com.au

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