November 16, 2023

Our mighty pollinators: Australia’s little unsung heroes

Green bee. Photo copyright Linda Vergnani

From blue-banded bees to grey-headed flying-foxes, Australia’s pollinating insects and animals play a critical role in maintaining the health and productivity of our land.

In addition to bees, of which there are more than 2,000 native species in Australia, our pollinators include the many other insects, birds and mammals who play a vital role in transferring pollen between flowering plants, allowing them to reproduce, fruit and seed. Some of these pollinators, such as grey-headed flying-foxes, disperse the seeds and fruits of trees across hundreds of kilometres every year, helping to regenerate and reconnect our native forests and woodlands.

Read on for three reasons why pollinators are so important:

They put food on our plates
Without pollinators, many of the foods we eat, such as fruits, vegetables, and nuts would disappear from our plates. The majority of the world’s food supply depends on having pollinators to help plants to reproduce, develop seeds and produce fruit. In Australia, 35% of our food production depends upon pollination by bees. In countries such as China, where bee populations have crashed, farmers in some areas have had to resort to painstakingly hand pollinating crops.

They are essential for healthy ecosystems
Our pollinators play a vital role in creating and sustaining the health and resilience of the natural systems that we depend on – contributing to healthy soils and clean water by supporting robust and biodiverse vegetation and habitats. In Australia, many of our native plants have specialised relationships with specific pollinators and rely on pollinators for reproduction and genetic diversity to ensure their long-term survival. Without the assistance of pollinators, many native plants would struggle to survive, and many would disappear forever. This, in turn, would have a cascading effect on all the creatures that rely on these plants for food and habitat, resulting in loss of wildlife, biodiversity and ecosystem health.

Macleay's Swallowtail

They reconnect our forests
The health and resilience of our forests are dependent on pollinators. For example, grey-headed flying-foxes disperse the pollen and seeds of flowering and fruiting trees over thousands of kilometres every year as they feed, helping to increase the diversity of our forests and reconnecting isolated patches. 

How you can help
Sadly, pollinators around the world are declining in alarming numbers due to a multitude of threats including habitat loss, fragmentation and climate change. Thankfully there are many things that landholders and local communities can do to help conserve our native pollinators such as:

  • Preserving and managing important patches of pollinator habitats on their land.
  • Planting a diversity of native flowering shrubs and trees.
  • Replacing pesticides with natural alternatives.
  • Popping up a bee box or two or leaving patches of undisturbed soil or sand where native bees can burrow in and create a nest.
Grey-headed flying-fox. Photo copyright Vivienne Jones.

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