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Wenona abuzz with Native Bees

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The student-led Wenona Environment Group began researching Native Bees after visiting a local school and attending a workshop on the species last year. Native Bees are a little-known species and are actually much smaller than their Honey Bee counterparts. They are also physically unable to sting, making them harmless. With this in mind, we began to research how we could get our own hive at Wenona.

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This project was led by Ellie in Year 9, who has had a native bee hive at home since 2016, supplied by her local council. Using her experience, Ellie was able to help explain the process to the Environment Group. We employed a landscape architect, Elke Haege, who supplied us with a fully functioning hive with around 60,000 to 65,000 bees and helped us find an ideal location for the bees.

The hive was installed in the school’s Memorial Garden in November 2017. Over the summer holidays, the Maintenance team and gardeners made sure that the bees were in good condition. 

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Why re-introduce native bees?

Native Bees (Tetragonula carbonaria species) are a vital part of the Australian bushland. They are a stingless species, removing the possibility of any allergic reaction. Measuring only 4 millimetres in size, many students are surprised at how small they are. Requiring little to no maintenance, Native Bees provide pollination services to plants, especially native Australian plants, including Eucalyptus, Macadamias, Tomatoes and Melaleuca plants. While native bees only produce small amounts of honey per year (usually less than one litre), they are important for promoting ecosystem diversity and balance in Wenona’s gardens.

Tetragonula carbonaria is native to the Sydney Basin and the bees are acclimatised to Sydney’s weather and coastal location. In recent years, the species has diminished due to the loss of their natural habitat of tree hollows and logs for urban/housing purposes. The increasing loss of bee diversity was one of the reasons the Environment

Group wanted to get a hive. Knowing that we have provided 60,000 to 65,000 animals with a home is very inspiring! The bees are low-maintenance, educational and allow students to learn first-hand about the species as well as ecosystem diversity.

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Where are the bees located?

The Memorial Garden was decided upon as the best location for the bees with the advice and assessment of Elke Haege, as it has walls facing directions that would receive sun above them but also provide shade when needed. The Garden also hosts many flowers and native plants (including Kangaroo Paw) which would receive the benefit of pollination from the bees. We also thought that this location would allow students to easily access the bees if they wanted to come see them at recess or lunch.

The process of getting Native Bees was a worthwhile and rewarding experience, which involved the whole Environment Group in the decision-making process. It is exciting to walk into School in the mornings and see the Native Bee hive in the Memorial Garden, knowing that we were responsible for its introduction to Wenona. We would like to thank Mr Dos Santos, our head gardener, and Dr Scott for their enthusiastic support of this project.

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Jessica, Environment Captain