The Green Carpenter Bee is the largest bee in South Australia. It's an iconic, beautifully metallic green bee that is friendly and harmless.
The Green Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa aerata) female (above left), male (above right)
The species is extinct on mainland South Australia and Victoria but still exists on Kangaroo Island, and around Sydney and in the Great Dividing Range in NSW. The species relies on soft wood to make its nests.
On Kangaroo Island, extensive and repeated bush fires in carpenter bee habitat have removed most of these soft wood nest materials, which require 30 years to regrow. This severely threatens the bees' existence.
What has been done?
Since 2013, a small team of entomologists have been giving the bees alternative (artificial) nesting stalks made of Balsa wood, which resembles dead flower stalks of grass trees or dead Banksia trunks. These nests are placed in the fire-affected areas where the bee still occurs. Since the start of this project, nearly 300 female carpenter bees have successfully raised offspring in these nests. Each female excavates her own nest.
Balsacentral.com has proudly supported this conservation effort by helping to select beams of the harder, heavier balsa and providing them to the project at a low price.
Balsa wood substrate resembling Banksiatrunks (A), Xanthorrhoeaflower stalks (B), a nest tunnel with brood cells (C), and (D) X-ray of overwintering branched nest with adult bees (D).
Impact of the January 2020 fires
At the time of the 2020 fires, there were more than 150 nests in the stalks provided on Kangaroo Island, which would have contained mature brood. These all burnt. In NSW, the species has also been severely impacted, with much of its natural range burnt.
What needs to be done now?
On Kangaroo Island a few remnant natural nests may still exist in unburnt areas. If that is the case, raised funds and local community support will be used to try to nurse the population back to health and into conservation areas. We will do this by planting many nesting stalks in the unburnt areas that can still supply the bees with sufficient food to produce offspring. Then, as the western side of the island will begin to flower again, we will expand the range of the substrate.
If there are insufficient bees left, there may be an opportunity for reintroduction from NSW, but the conservation status there needs to be assessed before we undertake such action.
You can help to save this beautiful bee from extinction
Please support the recovery of the green carpenter bee by donating to the Rita fund: https://www.australianpollinatorweek.org.au/donate/
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