Steven and Trudi Hayes operate the Little Star Bee Sanctuary on the Mid North Coast, providing shelter for and education about both European Honeybees and our own Native Stingless Bee varieties.
Bees have created a lot of buzz in the media lately … we know they’re under threat and that they’re a vital part of our planet’s ecosystem, which is why the 100 Hives for 100 Schools project that Little Star has become involved with is such an exciting development…
Tell us a little about Little Star Bee Sanctuary.
Little Star Bee Sanctuary has grown out of our family and the journey we have walked together. Trudi gave Steven his first beehive for his birthday when she was pregnant with their first child in 2008. Since then, the dream and family have grown.
The Little Star family have lived on the Mid North Coast in a place called Missabotti since 2009. We have created a bee sanctuary for all bees – honey and native, with the aim of providing fodder all year round. Using non-migratory processes and natural beekeeping principles, the bee sanctuary has been created to strengthen hive colonies – providing a frontline defence mechanism against diseases and predators. Our bee sanctuary is off-grid on a care-farmed (chemical free), rural property.
In 2017, we launched our education arm and provide dynamic training for those new to beekeeping, those interested in bees and to the experienced beekeeper in our practices and hive management strategies. We are currently in the early stages of the Little Star Collective – a collaborative approach for those “lovers of bees” in our local community, including collective honey distribution and a mentoring programme. We know that bees are integral to the future of our planet and plant species. We know that the beekeeping industry is facing its most complex time ever. We aim to be at the forefront of education and research for our bees and community.
To create a holistic education and research community for the bee industry in Australia – change, transformation, sustainability with integrity.
Education courses/programmes; honey, hives and hive products; mentoring and collective honey distribution; private hive management; Consultancy; research into all types of bees.
How many/what types of bees do you keep at the sanctuary?
We have over 100 honeybee and native bee hives in residence around the sanctuary.
We have a number of native bee “hotels” for solitary native bees, which include the Blue- banded Bee, Teddy-bear Bee and Carpenter Bee.
Why is it so important to preserve our native bee populations?
Preserving native bee populations for us works twofold. Firstly, as they rise in popularity it is important to educate people in not just taking colonies from the wild – which serves a purpose in native pollination and ecosystems.
Secondly, building up our native bee numbers both in the wild and managed hives offers greater security for diversity in pollination methods for our agricultural industry.
There is also so much we do not know yet about native bees. The 100 Hives in 100 Schools project aims to collect data and conduct research with the schools’ involvement to provide valuable information for stingless native bees across the Mid North Coast.
Raising awareness around native bee colonies can help farmers look at diversifying pollination practices, and we can begin to breed up further native bee populations to assist us into the future. Although native bees are susceptible to pest and diseases, they are also resilient to most that are facing the honeybee industry.
What are some of the threats bees currently face in today’s modern world?
Bees have been a hot topic in recent media and years, because bee colonies are undergoing significant destruction from pests and diseases – in other parts of the world, colonies have declined at a rapid rate due to threats such as the Varroa mite and colony collapse disorder.
We are lucky in Australia that the Varroa mite has not yet invaded our shores, but the beekeeping industry has been on standby for some time, waiting and preparing for the mass impact on our honeybee and feral bee populations, which are major sources of pollination for our crops.
Some of the many issues we have experienced in Australia are attacks by Small hive beetle – which can kill an entire colony of native and honeybees in a short period of time, and American Foulbrood, a bacteria that is fatal to European Honeybees.
You’re part of the 100 Hives in 100 Schools project. What’s involved?
The project extends from Grafton in the north to Port Macquarie in the south and aims to place 100 Native Stingless Beehives in 100 education environments, from preschools, primary and high schools to vocational education colleges.
The programme will run initially for three years and includes training Bee Mentors in each of the education environments, the creation of an interactive digital bee education platform, face-to-face education sessions from Little Star Bee Sanctuary and resources that support the curriculums.
The rollout will take approximately one year, with 10 hives being placed per month (in optimal seasonal times) with the support of grant, sponsor and donation funding.
100 hives in 100 schools will:
- Create a mind of enquiry in children and adults alike into native bee behaviour and characteristics
- Create educational resources for use in conjunction with the NSW curriculum
- Aid in the conservation and reproduction of native bees
- Pollinate school/local gardens
- Add a conversation point for teachers, colleagues, learners, staff and parents
- Increase numbers of Native Stingless Bees (Tetragonula Carbonaria) on the Mid North Coast
- Create data from placement and observation of hives – this can contribute to further study on Native Stingless Bees in this region
- Create and enhance a network of people passionate about Native Bees on the Mid North Coast of NSW
Who’s partnered with you to help facilitate 100 Hives in 100 Schools?
We have some amazing people working with us to deliver this project:
- Paul West – our Bee Advocate – former host of the wildly popular River Cottage Australia, and the recent ABC Catalyst series on bees.
- Dr Tim Heard – mentor and supplier of native bees – with over 30 years’ experience working, researching and teaching about native bees in Australia.
- The Starfish Foundation – our auspicing organisation and charity arm of the project. Donations to the project are tax deductible. Starfish has a track record of innovative and pioneering sustainability initiatives throughout Australia.
- Incredible Education Environments, including TAFE NSW, community preschools, state schools, Catholic schools, independent schools and nature based education precincts.
A project like this will obviously require a lot of work – and funding too! In what ways can readers assist?
Expressions of interest went out to schools earlier this year, and we already have over half the schools on board, with enquiries every day. If you want a native beehive and the programme in your school – get in contact with us to find out more.
We need $250,000 to fund this project to rollout over the next year. We are asking for donations big and small from individuals, businesses and communities who want to make a difference in educating young people about bees for the future.
Schools may wish to fundraise for their hive in part or total, which will guarantee the programme in their host environment.
You can donate directly to the campaign at: www.chuffed.org/project/100-hives-in-100-schools
Or for more substantial donations/funding, you can contact us directly via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Where can we find out more info?
You can find out more about Little Star Bee Sanctuary by visiting our website: littlestar.net.au or contacting us on (02) 6564 8737. You can also visit the project website: 100hivesin100schools.net.au
We run education courses monthly through the sanctuary on bees, and we hold two native bee workshops with Dr Tim Heard each year locally. We also offer workshops on building beehives, native bee hotels, fermenting and cooking with honey, mead making, making beeswax wraps and using hive products in cosmetics and healing products.
We can adapt something for a group, school or family, depending on what you want to learn, and we offer tailored “bee experiences” – including glamping and paddock to plate honey inspired meals.
Thanks Steven and Trudi.
Interview: Jo Robinson.