Tasmanian student’s quest to ‘bee’ kinder to plants

Eve Chugg has figured out that to ‘bee’ kind to (and feed) ourselves, we need to protect the plants we eat and the insects that pollinate them. Find out how this Year 8 student from Tasmania needs your support to protect local bees.

Eve Chugg’s family runs Longford Berries in northern Tasmania, growing organic strawberries, blackberries and gooseberries. It is not surprising then that her family love bees, the pollinators of these crops.

“My mum is always talking about them. She recently bought a flow hive, which we put at the farm,” says Eve. A conversation between mother and daughter about the declining number of bees worldwide soon after that purchase got Eve thinking. “I just went into my room and thought to myself ‘What are you on about mum?” Bees are everywhere! However, I started researching and I found out that this was not the case,” explains Eve.
Realising the devastation that the loss of these important food crop pollinators would cause to the human population, Eve decided to do something about bee health. “That so many people would die of starvation if we lost our bees; that just makes my mind explode,” says Eve, a Year 8 student at Scotch Oakburn College in Launceston.

With the help of her school, family and friends, Eve has constructed bee hotels in a bid to attract these important pollinators to areas where bee habitat is threatened.

Eve has also conducted a raffle, with half of all proceeds going to the Wheen Bee Foundation , a not-for-profit organisation promoting awareness of the importance of bees for food security and funding research projects and activities aimed at keeping bees healthy.

The remainder of the funds from Eve’s raffle is funding the purchase of plants for the local wetlands. During her research, Eve found out that many indigenous plants are reliant on native bees for pollination, including those growing in the North Esk Wetlands adjacent to her school. This fresh water riverine wetland is subject to tidal influence and is an important and increasingly rare niche habitat in this urban setting. Species present at this site include Leptospermum scoparium, a native Tasmanian plant and the source of the famed Manuka honey.

According to Codie Bounday, the school groundskeeper, these wetlands are home to several native bee species including Exoneura hamulata (Reed Bee), Callohesma calliopsiformis, Hylaeus spp. (Masked Bees) and Hyleoides concinna (Wasp Mimic Bee) 1 . Eve is now working with Codie and the school community to increase the number of flowering trees and shrubs rich in nectar at the wetlands to better support these native bees.

How you can help Eve and our bees
If you have been looking for the right opportunity to celebrate 2020 as the International Year for Plant Health (IYPH), Eve’s project may fit the bill.

Eve is seeking help from local growers and other community members interested in protecting native bees and honeybees in northern Tasmania.

With the assistance of Codie and the school, Eve wants to plant more bee-attracting species at the wetlands later this year. Eve’s plant wish list includes acacias, eucalypts, Grevillia australis, hakeas, Leptospermum scoparium, Melaleuca ericifolia and Tasmania lanceolata (Mountain Pepper).

If you can support Eve’s quest in any way, e.g. donation of plants or time, please contact Mark Hassell, Dean of Students, Scotch Oakburn College, at Mark.Hassell@soc.tas.edu.au.

“If everyone is on board, then we can actually do something pretty amazing,” says Eve.

Further reading
Interested in native bee species? Check out the work of local Australian researcher Dr Anne Dollin: https://www.aussiebee.com.au/
1. Aussie Bee 2020, viewed 22 September 2020, https://www.aussiebee.com.au/