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Attracting Bees & Other Pollinators in Your Garden

Here are some practical tips for what you can do in your back garden or balcony for our pollinating birds and bees. Thanks to Birdlife Australia. For more information, head here:


  • Create appropriate habitat for birds. Even if you live near the bush, there are safe options. A fact sheet prepared by Birdlife Australia and the Nature Conservation Council provides great tips on how to create bird-friendly gardens in bush fire prone areas
  • Consider the birds that are local to your area and that are endangered. There are insect eaters, small and large nectar feeders, seed, fruit and meat eaters. Insect eaters like invertebrates on the bark and leaves of shrubs and trees, or on the ground. Banksia, bottlebrush Eucalyptus, Grevillea, Hakea and Melaleuca are good for small and large nectar eaters. Seed eaters are partial to Acacia (wattle) and Casuarina (Sheoak). Fruit eaters like Ficus (Figs) and lillipillies, and meat eaters like tall trees for perching and nesting and eat other birds, reptiles, frogs and invertebrates.
  • Your local nursery can help you with plants specific to your area. Take a look here for your closest option.
  • Birdlife Australia provides a wonderful resource called Birdata on how to find which birds live or historically have lived in your area. You need to register and get a free account. Go to 'explore' and use the various functions to search by species, or Local Government Area (for example). In the LGA search you will get a list of birds seen in the area on the right hand side.
  • Consider plants that are suited to smaller birds that can be crowded out by birds such as the Noisy Miner. Birds such as the blue wren like dense plantings of local shrubs. One example, the small honeyeater the eastern spinebill likes plants such as the red or pink spider flower.
  • Put out water for birds (and insects). Bird baths should be elevated to make it easier for birds to escape predators.
  • Hollows/nest boxes designed for specific types of birds add another dimension to your yard.
  • The general advice has been to not feed wildlife birds but as Dr Holly Parsons from BirdLife Australia says: ‘We shouldn’t really be feeding the birds but as people are still doing it, we have certain recommendations.’ - - For carnivore birds such as kookaburras, a general no to mince as it is depleted in calcium and can be sticky. This can lead to pieces being stuck on beaks, which can cause bacterial infections. Consider the soft meat dog rolls (similar to devon) available in supermarkets or kibble soaked in a little water. Sardines are another option.

- For non-carnivore birds such as parrots or honey-eaters, good food options are fruit or nectar supplements available from pet food stores. These can spoil very quickly so should not be left outside for too long. Seed mixes are generally OK, particularly ones from pet stores.

- The closer you can get to natural food, the better. You can buy crickets and mealworms for example from pet stores.

- Keep feeding and water stations and bowls very clean. Ask at your pet store for appropriate cleaning agents. Scrub water bowls regularly.

Native Bees

Plant a bee-friendly garden Aussiebee.com.au recently ran a survey asking readers across Australia to nominate the favourite flowers loved by their local native bees. The top 10 plants recommended were:

  • Abelia x grandiflora Abelia
  • Buddleja Butterfly Bush
  • Callistemon Bottlebrush
  • Daisies Many varieties
  • Eucalyptus & Angophora Gum Trees
  • Grevillea Spider Flower
  • Lavandula Lavender
  • Leptospermum Tea Tree
  • Melaleuca Honey Myrtle
  • Westringia Native Rosemary

Install or make an insect hotel - Check out our link that gives you the real buzz on the matter here:

  • As explained by the Permaculture Research Institute, there is no standard design for an insect hotel. Be creative with recycled and natural materials of wood, pallets, bamboo, reeds, stones and clay.
  • Remember – no toxic paints or varnishes.
  • Drill into the logs holes of various sizes from 3 to 10 mm in a small oblique angle so that moisture can run out. Vary hole depths for diversity but don’t drill all the way through. Depth can be limited to 30 to 40cm.
  • Find a sheltered spot, with the opening facing the sun in cool climates and facing the morning sun in warmer climates.
  • It is important that you give your hotel a roof so that the wood and reeds stay dry.
  • Some native bees dig their holes into sand or clay. A wall of clay mixed with sand attracts these bees.
  • If you live on the eastern seaboard from Sydney northward, consider installing a native stingless beehive.

Keeping a hive of native stingless bees does not require much effort. The hives require very little maintenance, no permits are needed and no special training is required. These bees are perfect for backyards and garden pollination. There are a few places where you can buy native stingless beehives with bees. Some places have waiting lists that have already closed for a few months. Sometimes there is the option to rescue an endangered hive. Just type in ‘native stingless beehives’ into your browser to find your nearest supplier and feel free to email us via our social media if you have any other questions.

Tips for attracting bees and other pollinators to your garden

  • Don’t use pesticides. Most pesticides are not selective. By using pesticides, one risks killing off the beneficial insects along with the pests. If you must use a pesticide, start with the least toxic one and follow the label instructions to the letter.
  • Use local native plants. They are usually well adapted to your growing conditions and can thrive with minimum attention. In gardens, heirloom varieties of herbs and perennials should be used. Single-flower varieties may also provide good foraging.
  • Use a range of colours. Bees have good colour vision to help them find flowers and the nectar and pollen they offer. Flower colours that particularly attract bees are blue, purple, violet, white and yellow.
  • Plant flowers in clumps. Flowers clustered into clumps of one species will attract more pollinators than individual plants scattered through the habitat patch. Where space allows, make the clumps 1 metre or more in diameter.
  • Include flowers of different shapes. Open or cup-shaped flowers provide the easiest access and shorter floral tubes are important for honeybees. Other pollinators, including native bees, butterflies and birds, benefit from differing flower shapes.
  • Have a diversity of plants, flowering all season. A varied diet is essential for the well-being of honeybees and other pollinators.
  • Plant where bees will visit. Bees favour sunny spots over shade and need some shelter from strong winds.
  • Provide accessible water. Bees need access to water. Provide easy access, either through wet sand or pebbles; do not drown the bees.

Information from ‘Bee Friendly: A Planting guide for honeybees and Australian native pollinators’ by Mark Leech. Australian Government Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation, 2012.