Sir Frederick Samson Park is a beautiful native bush reserve full of tall Tuart trees and Banksia woodland in the suburb of Samson, Perth. Unfortunately, though, many tree-hollows in the large old Eucalypts have been taken over by feral Honey Bees, and are no longer available for native animals. The European Honey Bee (Apis melifera) was introduced into Australia about 190 years ago to pollinate crops and produce honey, but it did not take long for swarms of bees to escape from their hives and infiltrate hollows in native bush throughout much of the country. Not only do Honey Bees take over vital nesting and sleeping hollows, they also consume large amounts of nectar and pollen resources, depriving species like native bees and honeyeaters from their natural food.
The City of Fremantle decided something had to be done about the feral bees in Samson Park, and contacted us about nest boxes. It was decided that providing extra tree hollows (in the form of nest boxes) would increase the number of hollows available for native animals, and this in conjunction with feral bee control methods that the City of Fremantle is currently working on, might help. We anticipated that some of the nest boxes would get bees in because this reserve has such a high number of feral hives, but monitoring the boxes would be a key part of the project. And the other key part would be to engage some local children with the bush - so they could monitor the reserve too.
With funding from Conservation Volunteers Australia (CVA), we got together with Gary and his class at Samson Primary School to build some new hollow homes. For some kids this was the first time they had used tools like hammers and screw drivers, and they had great fun putting their new skills to the test. After a few hours we had ten boxes completed, and finished the day off by painting them. The next morning we met back at the school and headed off to the reserve, with all ten boxes: two each for Black-Cockatoos, micro bats and pardalotes, three for small parrots and one designed for owls or ducks (yes many ducks really do nest in tree hollows, check out Simon's 2010 news post to watch Australian Shelduck chicks leaving their hollow nest). We are hoping that the measures we took when building the boxes will be enough to keep the bees out!
We all then watched Simon as hauled the first Black-Cockatoo box into one of the smaller Tuart trees in the reserve. Those of us on the ground even got to see what Simon saw from way up high, using the GoPro camera on his head hooked up to an iPad the kids were holding on the ground. It was then time for the students to head home so Simon and Gill, with the help of Klara from CVA, could put the other nine boxes around the reserve ready for the kids to come back and find another day.
We would like to than Jake Tanner (City of Fremantle), and Steve Pearce and Aaron Jaggar (CVA) for helping organise and fund this Re-Cyc-Ology workshop. If any of the students from Samson Primary of visitors to Samson Park would like to let us know how the boxes are going and if they are being used we would love to hear from you! Please put your comments below.