B&B education program

Bathurst: On The B&B Highway

The latest B&B Highway initiative is showcasing how regional centres can support our ailing pollinators to help agriculture and biodiversity.

The Bathurst B&B Highway – Bed & Breakfasts for Birds, Bees, Butterflies and other Biodiversity champions – links pollinating gardens and habitats at a number of Bathurst schools, contributing to regenerative corridors. Associated education sessions taught students and their families on the special connections between native endemic plants, pollinators and healthier agriculture and ecosystems.

Bathurst is the first regional centre on board the B&B Highway which by year-end will feature over 100 B&Bs in NSW and Victoria with Queensland locations now being planned.

The B&B Highway is steered by PlantingSeeds Projects with resources co-developed by the NSW Department of Education and the CSIRO’s Atlas of Living Australia.

Encouraging plants that support our ailing pollinators makes bird, insect and mammal populations more plentiful and resilient and stronger pollinator species living near farmland and the bush benefit those areas in turn.

Kids at Perthville Public School participating in the B’loomer session

Bathurst Regional Council research estimates that around 60% of plant species in Bathurst yards are exotic, with the remaining 40% native – a percentage the Council would like to see increased to support native pollinators.

Three Bathurst schools feature on the Bathurst B&B Highway: Bathurst South Public School, Perthville Public School and West Bathurst Preschool. PlantingSeeds’ B&B Highway educational sessions led by Nicole Lewis had on-ground support from Emily Cotterill and Skye Rivett, environmental consultants from The Environmental Factor, a Bathurst environmental consulting service.

PlantingSeeds Projects was awarded funding for the Bathurst B&B Highway project from the ANZ Seeds of Renewal Program and the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal. The Bathurst schools have also benefitted from contributions from Bunnings.

PlantingSeeds’ founder, Dr Judy Friedlander, said that the Bathurst B&B Highway offered fantastic potential for other regional centres that wanted to help agricultural pollinator services and engage students and their families.

Volunteers from Bunnings and the ANZ Bank work with the students and the team from The Environmental Factor

‘One in three bites of food are directly connected to pollinators. And animal pollination directly affects the yield and/or quality of approximately 75% of globally important crop types, including most fruits, seeds and nuts,’ she said.

‘Healthier pollinator populations in urban settings have also been shown to contribute to the “spillover effect” where productivity and biodiversity in adjoining, non-targeted agricultural habitats can improve as a result of pollinators travelling outside the planted pollinator gardens.’

Dr Friedlander said that the regeneration of urban, peri-urban and regional areas is also important with populations increasingly gravitating towards urban areas and often disconnected from natural living systems.

Said Skye Rivett: ‘What the B&B Highway is doing is teaching the children that something as small as an insect or bird pollinator is integral to the environment and has a role to play in our food production and in nature. When they realise some pollinators are endangered and that they can help them, it generates ripple effects from the little changes occurring.’

‘We say to the children: “Just imagine you are a bee and you only had one type of food in one season. Where would you go to find food?” This really connects the dots for them. It’s confronting to think about plants and nature like this,’ said Emily Cotterill.

‘We don’t want to get into the situation that exists in parts of Australia where farmers need to bring in colonies of bees to pollinate crops. We want to encourage local pollinators through providing diverse local ecosystems, including in the schoolyard.’

‘Many locals favour exotic European trees and plants, but it is important to encourage a range of native trees so that they will have flowers all year round. Many European plants flower in summer and the warmer months and there is a lack of flowering plants and trees in the winter months. After Spring and Summer, there is not a lot left for the birds, insects, and other pollinators,’ said Ms Rivett.

‘We are encouraging the public to plant a broader suite of things to create that more sustainable future,’ said Emily Cotterill. ‘And the children at the schools we worked with really enjoyed getting out and were highly engaged. We’re happy to be involved and supporting this worthwhile program.’

Threatened pollinator species in the Bathurst region include the Regent Honeyeater, the Eastern Pygmy Possum, Painted Honeyeater, Yellow-bellied Glider, Grey-headed flying fox, Squirrel Glider, Black-chinned Honeyeater and a number of microbats. Threatened insects include Bathurst Regional Council’s symbol, the Purple Copper Butterfly.

Bathurst Regional Council Sustainability Strategy Officer, Joel Little, said that the European honeybee is well-known for its pollinator role ‘but people don’t realise the important role native insects have in pollination – insects such as native bees, hoverflies, files, etc.

‘You can have a beautiful garden that is also a functional habitat with a range of coloured flowers including red, white and yellow with flowering in every season,’ he said.

School staff and children were assisted by staff from the ANZ and Bunnings in plantings and garden installations.

Alex Mann, educational leader at West Bathurst Pre-school, said that the B&B Highway project has inspired parents who are interested in supporting biodiversity. ‘There’s a lot more interest from families in sustainability these days and the children and parents can take the knowledge learnt back home for implementation and reinforcement. The B&B Highway is an excellent opportunity to have ongoing engagement with the community.’

Student Edith said she has learnt that ‘flowers are so important it makes me want to make sure I always have great gardens’.

Said Charlotte: "’I really love going out and looking at all the different bugs and animals we have in the playground. I now understand how important they all are’.

Listen to a report on the Bathurst B&B Highway on ABC Radio Central West here. The piece about the B&B Highway is from 2:13:00.