Bee amazed with your garden

Landscape architect Melissa Stagg has a firm favourite in the bird world, and its just turned up at her place again for the first time this year. Read about her love of the Rainbow Bee-eater and what you can do in your space to help them (and other insectivorous birds), including creating a 'bug hotel'.

 

If you live in Southern Australia, you may be seeing a few new faces showing up in your area lately, as many of our amazing migratory birds have started rolling back into your neck of the woods. A couple of standouts you may have seen are Sacred Kingfishers and Dollarbirds; just two of a number of birds species who migrate to northern Australia or beyond over the colder months, only to return south to breed while insects are in abundance during the warmer months. There are so many amazing species to choose from, but I’m going to tell you about the Rainbow Bee-eater.

The Rainbow Bee-eater (Merops ornatus) is hard to miss with it’s striking rainbow colours. A slender, medium sized bird, with a curved bill and a long tail with distinctive tail-streamers; these little gems are such a pleasure to watch as they dart and dive, catching bees and other insects on the wing. To draw these little beauties into your garden, plant large, Spring/Summer flowering indigenous shrubs; particularly ones that produce a lot of nectar. A great one is Sweet Busaria (Bursaria spinosa), which produces loads of white, nectar rich flowers. The most amazing display of Rainbow Bee-eater acrobatics I have ever witnessed, was numerous birds darting, diving and trilling away among a plantation of Sweet Bursaria. The abundance of flowers were humming with bees, and the Bee-eaters were having an absolute feast! To find large, nectar rich indigenous plants for your garden, visit your local indigenous nursery. Planting a range of species is best, as various shrubs flower at different times, extending your bee season. 


You can also go one step further and get a ‘bug hotel’ in your garden. Bug hotels are easy to make, and create sheltering and nesting opportunities to support our locally native insects. A great way to collect material for your bug hotel is to explore your local bushlands and wetlands, and collect reeds, rushes, twigs and sticks to fill your hotel with, as these materials should suit your locally native insects. Just make sure not to collect in national parks or protected areas. Add some clay to your bug hotel, and poke little tunnels in it for insects like our gorgeous Blue-banded Bees (Amegilla sp.). Do these things and you should have a whole range of insectivorous birds in your garden in no time.


 

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