Honouring our Fuzzy Pollinators on World Bee Day

World Bee Day is celebrated on 20 May every year. It is a day dedicated to the awareness of the vital role bees play in our ecosystem. Bees are responsible for pollinating a third of the food we eat and without them our food supply is at threat. They also play a critical role in the reproduction of plants and the production of honey, making them a crucial part of our natural world.

World Bee Day

Unfortunately, bees are facing a number of threats, including habitat loss, pesticide use, climate change, and disease. As a result, bee populations around the world are declining at an alarming rate. This decline is not only a threat to bees themselves but also to our food supply and the overall health of our ecosystem.

Australia has more than 1600 native bee species. There could be as many as 2000 to 3000 still to be identified. Australian native bees are wonderful pollinators, especially for our native plants. There are a number of actions we can take to support bee populations and protect their habitats.

Plant bee-friendly flowers and plants in your backyard. Bees rely on nectar and pollen from flowers for their food, so planting flowers that are rich in nectar and pollen can help support bee populations. Great examples include native flowers, lavender and sunflowers.

Avoid using pesticides as they can be harmful to bees and other pollinators. If you must use pesticides, choose ones that are bee-friendly and apply them in the early morning or late evening when bees are not active.

Bees need shelter to protect themselves from the elements and predators. You can help by providing bee houses or leaving dead wood and leaf litter in your garden. Make an Insect Hotel for your Fuzzy Pollinators this World Bee day.

Spread awareness and educate others about the importance of bees and the threats they face. Encourage your friends, family, and community to take action to protect bees and their habitats.

World Bee Day is an opportunity to appreciate the incredible work that bees do for our ecosystem and to take action to protect them. By taking small steps to support bee populations, we can help ensure that they continue to thrive and play their important role in our world.

Uncropped AEE logo with dragonfly icon

Making a Dragonfly Garden

I’ve recently move to the Central Coast in NSW and have been amazed by the variety of wildlife. With the good has also come the bad and there are a lot of mosquitos in some areas of my backyard. I have put in mosquito repelling plants near the house and I’m building a Dragonfly garden.

Dragon Fly garden

It does seem odd to get rid of mosquitos by putting in a pond, but I have thought this through. Dragonflies hunt insects like mosquitos in both their larval and adult forms. Dragonfly nymphs actively seek mosquito larvae as part of their diet. A single dragonfly nymph can consume hundreds of mosquito larvae during its development.

As adults, dragonflies continue their role as mosquito hunters. With exceptional flying abilities and keen eyesight, they prey on adult mosquitoes reducing the population before they have a chance to lay eggs.

Follow these steps to encourage dragonflies to your backyard and maximize their impact on mosquito control:

  • Create or maintain ponds, wetlands and other water bodies to provide suitable habitats for dragonfly nymphs.
  • Minimize the use of chemical pesticides, as these can harm dragonflies and disrupt the delicate ecological balance.
  • Incorporate native plants around water bodies to provide suitable resting spots and breeding sites for adult dragonflies.

Dragonfly Garden infographic
Dragonfly Garden infographic © Australian Environmental Education

Research Dragonfly Species in Your Area

Find out which species of dragonfly are native to your area. Different species have specific habitat requirements, and tailoring your garden to their needs will attract a bigger variety. Consult local field guides or search on the iNaturalist Australia for information on dragonfly species in your area.

Choose the Right Location

Dragonflies love sunny spots with plenty of warmth, so choose a location for your garden that receives ample sunlight throughout the day. Dragonflies spend a significant part of their life in and around aquatic environments. They lay their eggs in the water, so they need access to water as part of their lifecycle. If you aren’t putting in a pond build your dragonfly garden near a water source.

Incorporate Water Features

You can create an above ground pond in a large pot or an in ground pond with a prefabricated pond or using pond liner. Add materials like rocks, gravel, branches and plants to provide suitable resting spots and breeding grounds. Ensure the water is clean and unpolluted. You can also add floating plants like water lilies for additional hiding spots.

There is a natural stormwater channel that I wanted to incorporate my dragonfly garden into. Because it is usually completely dry I went for a prefabricated step pond. It has 2 depths making it ideal for this slopped area and I used the surrounding rocks to make it level.

Choose Dragonfly-Friendly Plants

Selecting the right plants is crucial to creating a dragonfly-friendly environment. I went for a mix of native flowering plants and grasses that provide landing spots for dragonflies and attract the insects they feed on. I also wanted to include plants of varying heights to create layers and provide shelter.

I sourced everything from the local nursery and brought some different ground covers including a Grevillia and Pigface to stabilised the ground surrounding the pond. I also included a couple of different species of Lomandra and a Kangaroo Paw. To attract insects and to provide height I went with 2 more Grevillias.

Most importantly were the water plants; I put in 3 different plants including a Water Lilly. An added advantage is that any aquatic invertebrates that hitched a ride in the plants should be local.

Create Sunning and Resting Spots

Dragonflies love to bask in the sun, and providing suitable sunning spots is essential for their well-being. Incorporate flat rocks or logs strategically placed around your garden where dragonflies can rest and warm their bodies. These areas also serve as excellent vantage points for hunting insects.

Minimize Pesticide Use

To create a thriving dragonfly garden, it’s crucial to minimize pesticide use. Dragonflies are predators and chemical pesticides to kill mosquitoes can harm them as well. Use organic alternatives to maintain a healthy and balanced ecosystem.

Maintain a Balanced Ecosystem

A successful dragonfly garden relies on a balanced ecosystem. Encourage biodiversity by incorporating a mix of plants to provide a diversity habitats. Regularly maintain your garden by removing invasive species and keeping the water features clean.

Dragonfly drying it's wings after metamorphosis

Building a dragonfly garden is a rewarding endeavour that goes beyond just the aesthetics. By creating a habitat that caters to the needs of dragonflies, you contribute to the overall health of your backyard ecosystem. With a little effort and thoughtful planning, you can turn your outdoor space into a sanctuary where dragonflies thrive.

Find out what else you can do to create a wildlife friendly backyard with the What’s in your Backyard activity series.

Australian Environmental Education logo with dragonfly

Bird Bonanza

My sea and tree change to the Central Coast has allowed me to reconnect with nature and the bird life is amazing. Today has been a Bird Bonanza. First thing this morning I spotted a pair of King Parrots feeding in a tree by my front window. When I went into the front yard I was surprised to see a flock of Galahs and Cockatoos feeding on seeds under a tree and across the lawn. I then noticed movement in the trees above and spotted a dozen Rainbow Lorikeets. It was a fabulous way to start the day.

In the backyard I saw a Kookaburra sitting on the fence and Magpies searching the lawn for food. Later in the day I was walking by Brisbane Waters near Kincumber and was excited to see so many more species. It had started raining, but that didn’t bother the birds. I saw a huge flock of Black Swans feeding and sheltering in the shallow water. There were Pelicans soaring above and a White-faced Heron looking for food among the mangroves. There were also several families of Chestnut Teals swimming in the inlets.

As I kept walking I saw movement in the shrubs along the path. I stopped for a closer look and spotted a few Superb Fairy-wrens. On the other side of the path I saw several Red-browed Finch feeding on seeds in the long grass.

Red-browed Finch Cover image © JJ Harrison

The Central Coast

Nestled along the stunning coastline of New South Wales, Australia, the Central Coast is a haven for nature enthusiasts and bird lovers alike. The Central Coast is characterized by its diverse landscapes, each providing a unique habitat for birds. Along the coastline, sandy beaches and rocky cliffs are frequented by seabirds such as silver gulls, crested terns, and majestic pelicans gliding gracefully over the waves. In the estuaries and wetlands, species like the pied oystercatcher and the eastern curlew can be spotted foraging for food in the shallow waters.

Venturing inland, the landscape transitions into lush forests and sprawling national parks, offering refuge to a myriad of woodland birds. Here, among the towering eucalyptus trees, one can encounter iconic species like the kookaburra, crimson rosella, and rainbow lorikeet filling the air with their melodic calls and vibrant plumage.

Notable Birding Hotspots

  1. Bouddi National Park: This coastal gem is home to a diverse range of bird species. Wander along the scenic coastal tracks and keep an eye out for eastern whipbirds darting through the undergrowth or eastern yellow robins perched on low branches.
  2. Tuggerah Lake: The second-largest coastal saltwater lake in New South Wales, Tuggerah Lake is a haven for waterbirds. Watch flocks of black swans gliding gracefully across the water or spot the distinctive silhouette of a white-bellied sea eagle soaring overhead.
  3. The Entrance: Situated at the confluence of Tuggerah Lake and the Pacific Ocean, The Entrance is a prime location for birdwatching. Stroll along the waterfront and observe wading birds such as egrets and herons fishing in the shallows or glimpse the elusive azure kingfisher darting amongst the mangroves.

Conservation Efforts

While the Central Coast has a huge variety of birdlife, it is not without its conservation challenges. Habitat loss, pollution, and climate change threaten the delicate balance of ecosystems upon which these birds depend. Conservation efforts, such as habitat restoration projects and community education initiatives, play a crucial role in protecting the region’s species for future generations to enjoy.

By supporting these efforts and practicing responsible birdwatching, visitors can help ensure that future generations can continue to marvel at the natural beauty of the Central Coast’s feathered inhabitants.

Whether you’re exploring coastal wetlands, wandering through the local park, hiking in the hinterland, or simply enjoying the serenade of birdsong in your backyard, there’s always something new to discover.

So grab your binoculars, lace up your hiking boots, and immerse yourself in the captivating world of birds on the Central Coast. With its breathtaking scenery and abundant wildlife, it’s a destination that will leave you awe-inspired and longing to return time and time again.

I am glad I now call this area my Backyard!

Australian Environmental Education logo with dragonfly

Citizen Science for school students

Citizen science projects are a great way to engage school students in scientific research and environmental monitoring. In Australia, there are several projects that students can get involved in.

Here are some examples:

Students can participate in wildlife monitoring and observation projects. You can report sightings of native animals like birds, possums, or kangaroos through platforms like the Urban Wildlife App

FrogID is a project by the Australian Museum that involves recording and identifying frog calls. Students can use the FrogID app to record frog calls in their local area. This data helps researchers monitor frog populations and biodiversity.

Seek by iNaturalist allows curious naturalists of all ages to earn badges and participate in challenges to observe organisms with on-screen identification using computer vision for identifications based on data from iNaturalist.

The National Waterbug Blitz is a nationwide waterway monitoring event. Everyone is encouraged to become ‘citizen scientists’ and investigate the health their local waterways and wetlands by exploring and identifying the waterbugs.

Students can learn about local flora by participating in tree planting initiatives and surveys of native plants. This helps with reforestation efforts and conserving native species. The School Tree Day is on 26 July 2024

The Aussie Backyard Bird Count is a great birdwatching and monitoring projects. Students can participate in bird surveys, recording the species they see and their behaviours.

The Australian Pollinator Count is taking place during Australian Pollinator Week, from 11-19  November. Taking part is quick and easy. You simply need to observe some flowers for 10 minutes, record the pollinators you see and register your results.

Australia has a unique range of native bee species. Students can learn about these bees and participate in bee monitoring projects to help researchers understand and protect these important pollinators.

Students can set up weather stations at their schools or homes and contribute to climate data collection. Organizations like the Bureau of Meteorology offer resources and guidelines for setting up these stations.

To get involved in these projects, students can often find information on the websites of relevant organizations, science institutions, or local community groups. It’s also a good idea to reach out to teachers, as many schools have partnerships with organizations that offer citizen science opportunities. These projects not only provide valuable data for research but also offer a hands-on and engaging way for students to learn about the environment and scientific processes.

Australian Environmental Education logo with dragonfly

Celebrating Biodiversity Month

September is Biodiversity Month, a time to celebrate our natural wonders and diverse ecosystems. Biodiversity Month offers us the perfect opportunity to pause and appreciate the beauty, complexity, and importance of biodiversity. Biodiversity Month also encourages us to reflect on our relationship with the natural world and take action to protect it.

Images representing 3 years of AEE

Biodiversity is the variety of life on Earth and is typically a measure of variation at the genetic, species, and ecosystem level.

Genetic diversity

Genetic diversity is the variety of genes within a species. Each species is made up of individuals that have their own particular genetic composition. This means a species may have different populations, each having different genetic compositions. To conserve genetic diversity, different populations of a species must be conserved.

Species diversity

Species diversity is the variety of species within a habitat or a region. Some habitats, such as rainforests and coral reefs, have many species. Others, such as salt flats or a polluted stream, have fewer. In Australia, more than 80% of plant and animal species are endemic, which means that they only occur naturally in Australia.

Ecosystem diversity

Ecosystem diversity is the variety of ecosystems in a given place. An ecosystem is a community of organisms and their physical environment interacting together. An ecosystem can cover a large area, such as a whole forest, or a small area, such as a pond.

Biodiversity Month serves as a reminder of the extraordinary diversity of life on our planet and the importance of preserving it. Biodiversity is not just a concern for scientists and conservationists; it’s a global responsibility that each of us can contribute to in our own way. Whether through education, advocacy, or personal lifestyle choices, we can all play a role in safeguarding the web of life that sustains us. So, this September, let’s celebrate and protect the incredible biodiversity that enriches our world.

Uncropped AEE logo with dragonfly icon

Celebrating World Turtle Day

World Turtle Day is an annual event celebrated worldwide on May 23rd to raise awareness about the conservation of turtles and their habitats.

Marine turtle
© David Troeger on Unsplash

Turtles are one of the oldest living reptiles on earth, and they have been around for over 200 million years. They are an important part of the Australian ecosystem, playing a vital role in maintaining the balance of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. Turtles are also considered to be keystone species, which means they have a disproportionate effect on the environment relative to their abundance.

There are six species of marine turtles found in Australian waters, including the Green Turtle, Loggerhead Turtle, Hawksbill Turtle, Olive Ridley Turtle, Flatback Turtle and Leatherback Turtle. They are all listed as Endangered or Vulnerable to extinction.

Image credit: Sea Turtle Foundation

World Turtle Day provides a platform for raising awareness about the conservation needs of these fascinating creatures and encourages action to protect their habitats. It serves as a reminder that we all have a role to play in preserving and safeguarding our natural environment for future generations.

How You Can Make a Difference: On World Turtle Day, and beyond, there are several ways in which you can contribute to turtle conservation:

  1. Reduce plastic consumption: Minimize single-use plastics and participate in local beach clean-ups to prevent marine debris from polluting turtle habitats.
  2. Support conservation organizations: Donate to reputable organizations focused on turtle conservation efforts in Australia and around the world.
  3. Promote responsible tourism: Choose eco-friendly travel operators that prioritize sustainable practices and adhere to guidelines for responsible wildlife encounters.
  4. Educate and raise awareness: Share information about World Turtle Day on social media, organize local events, and engage in conversations that highlight the importance of turtle conservation.
Australian Environmental Education logo with dragonfly

Roaring Back in Time

National Dinosaur Day is a time to celebrate Australian Dinosaurs is celebrated on 7 May every year. This special day is a time to recognize and appreciate these incredible prehistoric creatures that roamed the Earth millions of years ago.

The first known dinosaur fossil was discovered in England in the early 1800s. Since then, hundreds of species have been identified all over the world, including Australia. The study of dinosaurs has provided us with invaluable insights into the evolution of life on our planet.

Dinosaur Fossils in Australia

Queensland, in particular, boasts some of Australia’s most significant dinosaur discoveries. The Dinosaur Trail and Winton is the gateway to the prehistoric past. I visited the world-renowned Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum last year, you can see ongoing fossil discoveries and even participate in dinosaur digs. One of the most remarkable dinosaur fossil discoveries in the areas is “Banjo,” Australia’s most complete carnivorous dinosaur.

Whether you are a lifelong dinosaur enthusiast or just starting to learn about these amazing creatures, today is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate their place in history and learn more about the science behind their existence. With new discoveries and advancements in technology, the study of dinosaurs continues to fascinate and inspire people of all ages. So why not join in the fun and celebrate? You never know what you might learn!

Uncropped AEE logo with dragonfly icon

SeaWeek 2023

SeaWeek is Australia’s major national public awareness campaign to focus community awareness and appreciation of the sea. This week-long event is held every year in March and provides a great opportunity to learn about marine environment. So, take a dive under the water this SeaWeek and explore our amazing marine environments with me.

Seaweek graphic

It was great to be able to spend time diving over the last few week exploring the marine environment around Sydney.

Marine Life title slide

Explore the amazing diversity of Marine Life. Take a journey beneath the waves to explore this wonderful world. Learn about some of these incredible animals, their adaptions and habitats with the resources below.

Where the river meets the sea title slide

Follow the journey of water down the river through the catchment to the sea. Water is essential for all forms of life and the small amount of available freshwater create competing pressures for our water resources. 

Australian Environmental Education logo with dragonfly

Adventures on the Great Barrier Reef

I was very excited to get back to the Great Barrier Reef last week. I stayed out on Ocean Quest for 5 days diving Norman and Saxon Reefs. Over the 5 days I went on 12 amazing dives and 4 snorkels exploring both reefs.

The Great Barrier Reef is a World Heritage site that stretches more than 2,000km. The reef can be seen from space and is under threat. No other World Heritage site contains so much biodiversity — more than 1,500 species of fish, 400 species of coral, 4,000 species of molluscs, and 240 species of birds. Don’t forget all the sponges, anemones, marine worms, crustaceans and other species.

The variety of fish life is staggering, everywhere you look, you see something new hiding amongst the coral or out on the sand. The photos don’t do it justice.

Sometimes you only get a glimpse, but that is enough to see my first Hammerhead Shark.

The team from Deep Sea Divers Den were fabulous, all the staff from the kitchen to the dive crew made my stay an incredible adventure. I’m already planning my trip next year.

A big thanks also goes out to Saara & Lachie and Claudio and Natalie for letting me join their dives and for sharing their photos and video footage with me.

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Cicadas Chorus

In Australia we know it is summer when the Cicadas starts their chorus. Cicadas are the loudest insects in the world and emerge from their underground world in late spring and summer. The peak Cicada season is November and December.

Cicadas Red Eye Cicada on tree
Red Eye Cicada Psaltoda moerens

Cicadas spend most of their life underground with many large Australian species living underground as nymphs for around 6-7 years. This is why in certain years some species are more abundant than others, there is often peaks every few years.

Listen out for the sounds of cicadas and keep an eye out for their exoskeletons on trees, walls, fences and shrubs.

The life of an adult cicada is very short, lasting only a few weeks. The female cicada lays its eggs by piercing plant stems and inserting the eggs into the slits it has made. The eggs hatch and are small, wingless nymphs. They fall to the ground and burrow below the surface. They live on the sap from plant roots and when the nymph reaches full size it digs its way to the surface. The nymphs then climbs on to a tree trunk or other object and sheds its skin for the last time. The fully-winged adult cicada which emerges leaves its old empty skin behind.

Watch the Cicada Lifecycle video form the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

Did you know?

  • Australia has an estimated 750 to 1000 species of cicada
  • Only male cicadas sing. They do this in an attempt to find a mate.
  • Different species have different songs to attract only their own kind.
  • Adult cicadas have short lives, usually only a few weeks.
  • Most of their lives are spent as nymphs underground. For some species this can be up to several years.
  • Cicadas feed only on plant sap using their piercing, sucking mouthparts.
  • Cicadas feed on a huge range of plants, including eucalypts and grasses.
  • Birds, bats, spiders, wasps, ants, mantids and tree crickets all prey on cicadas.

I heard a weird cicada sound during a walk around the Badu Wetlands in Sydney Olympic Park. As I got closer, I discovered a Praying Mantis devouring a cicada.

If you love cicadas too follow Cicadarama. They are an Australian-based project focused on learning about the lives of cicadas. They need your help, become a Citizen Scientist and log your Cicada sighting. https://www.cicadarama.com/