Aussies swarming to support our bees

18th May 2021 | Eativity editors

Pollinators need our help. Scientists around the world have sounded the alarm that we’re facing an “insect apocalypse” driven by pesticides, climate change, pollution, land clearing, bushfires and industrial agriculture. In the lead-up to World Bee Day on May 20, farmers, gardeners and farmers’ markets across the country are stepping up to back the bees.

Farmers and gardeners can now do more to help protect Australia’s precious pollinators thanks to the launch of the brand-new Bee Friendly Farming (BFF) certification program.

BFF was created to work directly with farmers and gardeners to promote and certify bee-friendly landscapes and practices. The program has been launched in Australia by the Wheen Bee Foundation, in collaboration with program creator Pollinator Partnership and with help from $50,000 sponsorship from founding platinum partner, Flow Hive – a beehive system that’s less stressful on both the bees and the beekeeper.

Wheen Bee Foundation CEO Fiona Chambers says BFF Australia is a science-based program overseen by a national taskforce of Australian experts, including scientists and farmers.

“This taskforce ensures BFF supports bees and other pollinators to thrive under Australian conditions while optimising the benefits to landholders,” she says.

“As keystone pollinators, bees are essential to our lives. They play a crucial role in our food security, and they underpin biodiversity and ecosystem health.”

Katina, James and Arabella Bowie are building a sustainable farm that supports honey bees and native pollinators.

Helping bees a “no-brainer” for farmers

Bees help to pollinate most of the crops we eat – about one in every three mouthfuls of food you enjoy is pollinated by bees. As nearly two-thirds of Australia’s agricultural production benefits from bee pollination, it’s not surprising many Aussie farmers are already getting on board with BFF, with applications spanning horticulture, grazing and viticulture.

For James Bowie, owner of family-run cattle operation Bowie Beef in Bridgetown, Western Australia, the integration of beef, biodiversity and bees is a “no-brainer”.

“There’s pollination benefits from honey bees and native bees, as well as the ecosystem services provided by beneficial insects for predation of crop pests and parasites,” he says.

On the farm, Bowie Beef has focused on revegetation for a variety of benefits, including pollinator forage and insect habitat, and has also improved pastures by planting biodiverse perennials that provide year-round pollen and nectar and which function as “pollinator pathways” for bees and other insects across the landscape.

For farmer Mike Hogan, protecting Australia’s pollinator populations is a matter of survival.

Working with nature

Mike Hogan has a four-hectare certified organic bee-friendly farm in Alstonville, northern NSW, where he grows avocados, custard apples and vanilla beans. He has implemented several bee-friendly practices, including planting for biodiversity. Coffee, sunflowers, lilly pillies and Himalayan magnolias are just some of the plants he’s added to help pollinators.

“Looking after the bees is looking after ourselves and giving back to the environment,” he says. “A lack of bees means a lack of pollination. In my line of business, if you don’t have the bees, you’re not going to make any money.”

Hogan is encouraged by positive changes within Australia’s farming community to help pollinators, including a shift towards integrated pest management to reduce chemicals and sprays. He believes the Australian launch of BFF is an exciting development for farmers.

“As part of coming on board, they get certified as a bee-friendly farm,” he says. “There are certain criteria you have to meet – it’s not arduous; it’s working with nature for nature.”

Willunga Farmers’ Market is just one of many markets that will be hosting We Need Bees celebrations.

Markets buzzing to celebrate World Bee Day

Farmers’ markets around Australia are encouraging shoppers to wear yellow at farmers’ markets this week to show their support for Australia’s hard-working pollinators, and will also be hosting special “We Need Bees” market day celebrations.

“Put simply, we wouldn’t have farmers’ markets without bees, so it’s important to highlight the vital role of bees in our food supply,” says Jane Adams, National Spokesperson of the Australian Farmers Markets’ Association (AFMA), which has partnered with the Wheen Bee Foundation in the World Bee Day awareness campaign.

“Australia’s farmers’ markets are proud to support World Bee Day and help grow awareness of the vital role bees play in our food system,” Adams says. “AFMA salutes all the farmers’ markets that have pledged to celebrate World Bee Day – yet another way the vibrant farmers’ market network can support healthy food systems and healthy communities.”

We Need Bees-themed markets are being held across Australia from May 15 to 23, with the aim to spread the message about our precious pollinators, the unique roles they play in protecting our planet and what each of us can do to protect them in return.

Participating farmers’ markets include:

Greater Whitsunday – Qld, Wednesday, May 19
Eungai Creek – NSW, Friday, May 21
Mt Pleasant – SA, Saturday, May 22
Harvest Launceston – Tas, Saturday, May 22
Coburg – Vic, Saturday, May 22
Capital Region – ACT, Saturday, May 22
Margaret River – WA, Saturday, May 22
Manning – WA, Saturday, May 22
Willunga SA, Saturday, May 22
Northey St Organic – Qld, Sunday, May 23
Adelaide Showgrounds SA, Sunday, May 23
Eltham – Vic, Sunday, May 23
Vic Park – WA, Sunday, May 23

For a full list of participating markets and World Bee Day events, go to worldbeeday.org.au. To register to become a Bee Friendly Farming certified farm or garden, or for more information on BFF Australia, head to beefriendlyfarming.org.au