Environment news

Fauna Rescue on Sapphire to Woolgoolga Upgrade

The Sapphire to Woolgoolga project team has taken on a new initiative to salvage native bees as part of the fauna rescue procedures during clearing. An expert in native bees was engaged in the process.

Commercial honey bees (Apis mellifera) are not native to Australia. They were introduced from Europe in about 1822. There are over 1500 species of Australian native bees. Of these about 14 species are social native bees which form hives (genera Trigona and Austroplebeia) and do not sting. Native bees are also important pollinators of Australia's unique wildflowers and are a vital part of our Australian bushland. Native bee honey is a delicious bush food.

The government has recently released information on methods proposed to be used to combat varroa mites which is a threat to the future of the honey bee industry if it establishes in Australia. One of the recommendations is to expand the use of alternative pollinators or crops such as native bees.

The native bee expert inspected areas prior to clearing and located trees containing hives. Where possible, the hives were salvaged and bees rescued.

The project team is sponsoring an environment information initiative for five high schools in the area. To raise awareness of native bees and their importance, the project team will lease a hive for the schools for six weeks in order for students to gain a better understanding of the native 'stingless' bees. The project team and the native bee expert have compiled an education program which talks about their importance environmentally and to the Aboriginal culture.

Two schools have received the education program to date. Recently a presentation was given to 60 science students at one of the local high schools and was so well received that the teachers have asked for a further program to be conducted amongst the Year 11 science students.

Controlling salvinia on the Kempsey Bypass

A two millimetre long Brazilian insect is proving to be an effective weapon in controlling the weed Salvinia on the Kempsey bypass.

Salvinia is an aquatic, invasive weed listed as a Class 3 noxious species under the Noxious Weed Act 1993. Being a Class 3 weed, the alliance has a responsibility to manage it within the project boundary. As the weed was found at Pola Creek, which is a sensitive environment, Roads and Maritime Services specifications required that the alliance develop an approach to managing the infestation without applying herbicide.

The Kempsey Bypass Alliance released hundreds of the Brazilian insect Salvinia Weevils (Cyrtobagous salviniae) into Pola Creek to help control an outbreak of Salvinia (Salvinia molesta).

Removing the weed from the waterway mechanically had been tried previously on the project, but, because of the extent of the infestation within the local catchment, biological control was investigated.

Salvinia Weevil has been shown to be a highly effective biological control agent in many countries and was first introduced to Australia as a biological control in Queensland in 1980.

Following discussions with Kempsey Shire Council, the alliance contacted the Office of Environment and Heritage and the Department of Industry and Investment (Fisheries), who both supported the introduction of the tiny insect.

The Salvinia weevils were released on 3 March 2011. Since their introduction, they appear to be effectively reducing the amount of Salvinia in Pola Creek. The overall success of the program will be monitored over the coming months.

Share this page: