Bee B&Bs boost urban biodiversity

7 March 2023

Watch native bees and birds flit between welcoming urban habitats created by Melbourne’s youngest citizen scientists, supported by our community grants program.

We awarded PlantingSeeds a grant to help its flagship program flourish at three local schools in 2022. The program is called B&B Highway, or Bed and Breakfasts for Bees, Birds and Biodiversity.

Founder Dr Judy Friedlander said B&B Highway empowers children with the knowledge and skills to create essential habitats for native bees and share their insights with friends and family.

While each individual “bed and breakfast” might be very tiny, together they can form regenerative biodiversity corridors that support pollinators like birds, bats, bees and other insects with food and shelter at regular intervals across urban areas.

“Research shows that people feel overwhelmed by the terrible loss of species and they feel concerned about the loss of bees, birds and other pollinators that are so important for our ecosystems and food supplies,” Judy said.

“This program shows locals what they can do to help through being a positive, practical and scalable initiative.”

The B&B Highway program engaged students from Kensington, North Melbourne and Parkville schools. Resources were also translated into Arabic, Vietnamese and Chinese to engage diverse families.

Among many practical outdoor activities, the students planted native matted flax-lily, a beautiful blue and yellow plant that attracts the blue-banded bee. Then they used the tube-stock containers to make homes for bees.

“Participants enjoyed mixing the clay and sand together to make special homes for these insects that seek natural ground – something that is unfortunately being replaced by concrete and asphalt in our cities,” Judy said.

A year on from the B&B Highway program, biodiversity monitoring at the schools showed a broader range of insect pollinators, with more lady beetles, leafhoppers, pollen beetles and other insects in greater abundance.

Students and teachers also reported that they learnt new skills, gained a greater understanding of urban biodiversity and discovered a new sense of hope for the future.

One young participant called Eda is encouraging people to take action and make more wildlife-friendly habitats at their homes, schools and workplaces.

“I feel like I have the ability to affect species. I am only one person, but I have to hope others can help to form a positive impact,” Eda said.

“We are making a B&B Highway. It is only going to be effective if there are other B&Bs nearby for rest-stops.

“I think what is giving me hope is that people are talking about biodiversity. Our generation is growing up and aware of it… if we know what is wrong we can do stuff to solve it.”

A schoolchild tallying insects sighted on a worksheet titled 'Biodiversity Quest'
B&B Highway outdoor activities include a biodiversity quest

What to plant at your place

The B&B Highway program has seen more than 120 insect “bed and breakfasts” created in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, with each site incorporating local knowledge and native and endemic plants.

The more we can expand biodiversity corridors, the more resilient local flora and fauna will be.

If you look after a garden at your home, school or business, Judy encourages you to plant more native species and think about the three levels of habitat that help support biodiversity: small shrubs, taller shrubs and trees.

“Seeking out local plant nurseries and asking for plants that are endemic as well as native – that is, plants that come from your local area as well as a broader Australian context,” Judy said.

Plants for the B&B Highway program were sourced from VINC, the Victorian Indigenous Nurseries Co-Operative.

Snap a photo for citizen science

Your observations about the world around you can help scientists work out where species are living and inform regenerative projects.

“Get out there with your smartphone or smart device and start taking photos of native species – plants, insects and any other species – to upload to databases such as iNaturalist and CSIRO’s Atlas of Living Australia,” Judy said.

“There is no cost involved – only a cost to humans and other species if we do not take urgent steps to help.”

For more information on citizen science, local plants, and the B&B Highway program, visit PlantingSeeds.

Get a grant for your changemaking community project

Do you need funding to deliver a project that would make your neighbourhood a more caring, connected or sustainable place?

Whether you run a food pantry, mental health yarning circle, dragon boat team for cancer survivors or something completely different, we want to support you to help make community life in the City of Melbourne the best it can be.

To apply for funding, visit Inclusive Communities Grants. Applications for the current round are open until 20 March.

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