UCLN President, John Walter teaches us how to site and record pollinator sightings!

While our native insect pollinators may be small, fast and hard to spot, if you have the time to sit quietly in the sunshine and watch a flowering plant, you might be amazed at what you see.
Lasioglossum (Chilalictus) sp. (Halictid bee) on Dillwynia cinerascens (Grey Parrot Pea).
The bee is regurgitating nectar and allowing evaporation to concentrate or thicken it.
It re-swallows and then regurgitates again. Both the male and female of the species do this.

We have all had that peaceful moment, sitting in the sunshine listening to the happy hum of some insect or another flitting around the garden. But have you ever taken the time to wonder what those insects are, or thought about the role that they may be having in your garden and the local ecosystem???

In this wonderful video, UCLN President John Walter will show you how to do just that.

As an incredible photographer, specialising in macro-photography, and with a keen need to identify the beauty that he sees in the natural world, John will share his tips and tricks for:

  • choosing the right weather conditions and the best time of day for locating wild pollinators
  • observing these small pollinators without frightening them away
  • photographing what you have seen (not everyone will have a camera as professional as John’s, but you will be surprised what you can capture on your mobile phone!)
  • recording and uploading your sighting to an online information sharing network such as iNaturalist or the Wild Pollinator Count.

So the next time you find yourself with some time to spare on a day that is sunny, warm and calm, find a flowering plant or tree in your area and choose a single large flower, or a group of smaller flowers and sit there quietly for ten minutes and just watch! Keep a close eye on any insect that visits the flowers and moves around on the pistil or stamens (reproductive parts).

If you would like some help with identifying the insects you see, visit the Resources and Identification Tips pages on the Wild Pollinator Count Resources Page for some handy printables. Most importantly, remember that everyone starts somewhere, if you are not sure what type of pollinator you have seen, it is just as valid to note that when you submit your observation.

A brief guide to the bees you might be lucky enough to spot flitting around the Upper Campaspe Catchment (More insect species to follow in the next article!).

Reed Bees – may utilise a reed based bee hotel
Exoneura and Braunsapis – Over 80 Australian species
Reed Bees are slender black bees less than eight millimetres long. Some species have a red abdomen. They nest inside dry pithy twigs. As their habitat shrinks you will likely find them in plants such as raspberries and blackberries or in the dead fronds of tree ferns. Many nests can also be found in dead canes of the weed Lantana.

Blue Banded Bees – may utilise a clay bee hotel
Amegilla – 15 Australian species
These bees (between eight to 13 millimetres long), have beautiful stripes of blue or whitish hair across their black abdomens, are often seen darting around highly scented flowers. In the wild, females build a nest in shallow burrows in the ground. Each female builds her own nest burrow but many bees often nest together in the one place.

Teddy Bear Bees – may utilise a clay bee hotel
Amegilla (Asaropoda) – About 25 Australian species
As one of our bigger native bees, most species of these round furry brown bees are seven to 15 millimetres long. They build shallow nest burrows in soft soil and sometimes nest underneath houses. Each female builds her own nest burrow but many bees may nest together in the one location.

Leafcutter Bees – benefit from leaf litter being left where it falls
Megachile – About 40 Australian species
It is common to discover these amazing six to 15 millimetre long bees when rows of neat circular cuts on the edges of some leaves in the garden become noticeable. While your first thought may be that it is the work of caterpillars, it is just as likely to be Leafcutter bees using the cut out disks of the leaf as a nest building material.

Resin Bees – may utilise a wood and reed bee hotel where they can seal the end of the hole
Megachile, formerly in genus Chalicodoma – About 100 Australian species
Resin Bees are the most diverse of our native bees, existing in many colours and sizes. They can range from large, black 14 millimetre bees with white tufts of hair, to small, eight millimetre black bees with bright orange abdomens. They nest in pre-existing holes or gaps in timber or stonework. They collect resins and gums to build partitions between their brood cells and to seal their nest holes.

Homalictus Bees – may utilise a complex clay based bee hotel
Homalictus – Over 40 Australian species
Although very small (most less than eight millimetres long), the shiny Homalictus Bees come in a dazzling array of colours – golden blue, coppery red and green tinged with purple, red or gold are just a few of the colours listed by scientists. Homalictus Bees dig intricate branching nests in the ground. Many females may live together in each nest, taking turns to guard the narrow nest entrance. One nest was found to be occupied by over 160 females!

Homalictus sp. © John Walter

Masked Bees – may utilise a wood and reed bee hotel where they can seal the end of the hole
Amphylaeus, Hylaeus and Meroglossa – Over 150 Australian species
These slender black bees (most less than 10 millimetres long) are called ‘Masked Bees’ because they have pale markings on their faces. Many species also have a distinctive yellow spot on the thorax. Masked Bees have very little hair and carry pollen to their nests by swallowing it. The nests are usually in pithy stems or pre-existing holes in wood. Masked Bees weave their brood cells from an amazing cellophane-like secretion.

Please keep checking back in to watch John on his incredible journey while he attempts to photograph and record ALL the pollinator species in the Upper Campapse Catchment!

UCLN Treasurer, Chris Gymer creates a pollinator watering station and a butterfly puddler!

Like all animals, pollinators need a safe, dependable source of water year-round. Create a reliable water source for them and they will come!

Creating a pollinator watering station or a butterfly puddler is relatively easy, as creatively demonstrated by UCLN Treasurer, Chris Gymer in this video, but is immeasurably important if you want to attract native pollinators to your place and keep them coming back!

Pollinators are creatures of habit. Once they find a reliable source of shelter, food or water they will return again and again. Since getting them to change their food or water source is nearly impossible, it is best to establish a source of water for them before they find one by themselves.

The best water sources for pollinators are:

  • chemical free
  • will not go dry
  • will not drown the pollinators
  • appropriately located in terms of shade and aspect
  • will not be shared with livestock or pets.

To get these habitual creatures where he wants them, Chris has placed flowers in his dish to initially entice the pollinators to his waterer. You can also use oyster shells (they will be attracted to the salty smell) or ripe fruit.

As Chris wisely points out in his video, many of our pollinators are small and drown easily, so using a shallow dish lined with local soil (for minerals) and then filled with rocks or marbles is ideal. Just keep the water line shallower than the rocks, so the pollinators have a place to land. Surprisingly, soil is a key component for puddlers as butterflies like the mud!

It is equally important to make sure the dish of water you are putting out for thirsty pollinators has not been contaminated with pesticides or other pollutants like washing detergent, which will break the water tension and allow tiny pollinators like bees and insects to drown. If you have any doubts about your tap water and its level of treatment, opt for rain water which is easy to collect in a bucket or jar.

Place your dish in a warm, sheltered, east facing shady spot in amongst flowering plants or trees and sit back and enjoy the beautiful native pollinator species that come to visit your garden.

We launch our Pollinator Corridor Project this Sunday – and we can’t do it without you!!!

A small Sedge Moth (Glyphipterix meteora) on a beautiful Sticky Everlasting (Xerochrysum viscosum) © John Walter

The Upper Campaspe Landcare Network would like to invite you to join us for the ‘Virtual” launch of our Pollinator Corridor Project via ZOOM at 11am on Sunday 15th November 2020.

We are excited to announce that the highlight of our launch will bee (ha, ha) Guest Speaker, Gisborne raised – Doctor Mark Hall – from Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment. During his presentation and open discussion time, Mark will speak about:

  • the pollinators in the Upper Campaspe Catchment
  • the importance of pollinators
  • bee ID and telling them apart from wasps and flies
  • cool facts / features of native bees
  • threats to bees / pollinators
  • how to create beescapes (pollinator corridors)

Pollinator corridors are akin to biodiversity corridors designed for larger species, but have adaptations better suited to smaller native species—bees, insects, butterflies, moths, birds, and bats among others—that keep local ecosystems running.

Pollinator corridors do not always restore or protect habitat; instead, they can be designed and built in the middle of landscapes dominated by humans, such as agricultural land and urban streets.

The UCLN has designed the Pollinator Corridor Project to engage and unite the community within the Upper Campaspe Catchment, with its varied landscape and mixed land usage, around a common goal – the preservation, enhancement and creation of connected biologically and ecologically diverse habitats and food sources for pollinators.

The Project will allow groups and individuals of all ages to join together to establish pollinator corridors within the Catchment, with the aim of increasing environmental resilience through improved biodiversity, the creation of microclimates, and improved soil and water health; whilst improving the functionality and productivity of natural ecosystems and agricultural landscapes.

Pollinator corridors require a mix of vegetation types to link pollinator habitat. They are connecting patches of vegetation of various scale designed to help indigenous pollinators move through the landscape. Upper canopy species provide overshadowing and shade for soil, with deep roots lowering ground water levels and reducing salinization. Mid-story flowering shrubs and grasses are key to good Pollinator Corridors, and native grasses such as Wallaby Grass provide excellent habitat for pollinator and beneficial insects.

Biodiverse landscapes have a higher overall species richness of native pollinators. In turn, pollinators within corridors contribute to improved biodiversity and ensure ongoing environmental resilience.

Within the Upper Campaspe Catchment, our smaller indigenous pollinators that keep our ecosystems running, can only travel small distances at a time. Isolated patches of pollinator habitat are not as useful to our native pollinators as are continuous corridors between larger habitats. Pollinator corridors help smaller pollinators disperse more efficiently and contribute to a more diverse and healthy community of species.

Even in our beautiful Catchment, pollinators are declining in both diversity and number, facing threats including habitat fragmentation, harmful chemicals, invasive species, and climate change.

It is important to remember that a decline in pollinator species means a decline in natural ecosystems and food production. Pollinator corridors have the potential to contribute to improved food production and an increase in biodiversity in the Catchment through an increase in the prevalence and diversity of native pollinators.

Tickets are available now through EVENTBRITE! Please reserve your space as we are limited to 100 live participants… but don’t worry if you miss out – the recording of the launch will be available on our website!