Plants for honey bees


It is important to encourage bees to our gardens, so that they can help pollinate our fruit and vegetables. The best plants to grow are nectar-producing natives and flowering plants such as basil, borage, catmint, coriander, cornflowers, fennel, garlic chives, heather, hyssop, lavender (heirloom varieties), lemon balm, marigolds, mint, rosemary, scabious and sea holly, thyme.

Jerry Coleby-Williams recommends growing begonias, blue ginger, pigeon peas and salvias to encourage the native Blue Banded bees. He also says:

There’s a lot more I’d recommend, but one crop that is often overlooked is corn – for its pollen.

I’ve planted Eucalyptus tereticornis and Melaleuca leucadendron in my street for honeybees.

I use ‘Honey Flora of Qld’, by S.T. Blake & C. Roff, published by DPI Qld, ISBN 0-7242-2371-1″>0-7242-2371-1 as a standard reference book.

If you aim for a variety of different plants which flower at different times of the year, you’ll have more success with encouraging bees.

Northey Street City Farm honey

What are these guerrilla fruit trees?


I went for a walk around the neighbourhood and found a pumping permaculture garden along the roadside in some unused land. Obviously the work of some crafty Guerrilla Gardeners. There were plenty of edible natives, but what gave away the patch were the pumpkin vines creeping underneath the fence. You could say the parsley and basil did as well.

I didn’t recognise a few plants including the two above. Does anyone know what they are?

Getting started in Australian native stingless bees

I’ve been tossing up between getting traditional bees and Australian native stingless bees. The advantages of native stingless bees are that they do not sting and therefore you need less equipment. They help pollinate the garden, essential for many fruits and vegetables. They produce amazing honey but only a small amount (less than 1 kg per hive per year).

There is no legal requirement to register hives of native bees in Australia.

Aussie native stingless bees are available around Brisbane from the following places:

Trigona carbonaria
(Common in southern Queensland and NSW)

Vince Ashe – Crows Nest (in logs)
Phone: 07 4698 1701

Peter Davenport – Elanora (in boxes)
Phone: 07 5533 9383

Tony Goodrich – Brisbane  (in boxes)
Also supplies OATH hive boxes
Phone: 07 3878 2322
Mobile: 0449 746 970

Kin Kin Native Bees  – Chris Fuller
Boxes with mainly Trigona carbonaria for $350 pick up.
Phone: 07 5485 4454

My City Garden – The Gap
A 3 tiered hive, tin lid, 2 x honey collection pots, 2 x straps, 2 x black stoppers and approx 5000 funky little bees for $425.
Phone: 0435 226 912

Sugarbag – Tim Heard – Brisbane
Hives in boxes for $400, with $100 delivery.
Phone: 07 3844 4914

Don Riding – Clear Mountain (in boxes)
Phone: 07 3298 5253
Customer to pick up hives

John Waters, Bardon (in boxes)
Phone: 07 3870 8664

Col Webb – Brassall (in logs & boxes)
Phone: 07 3201 7083

Russell and Janine Zabel –  Hatton Vale (in boxes)
Phone: 0404 892 139

Recommended books

Further information

  • ANBees – an active forum for discussions on all sorts of Australian native bee topics
  • Aussie Bee – Australian Native Bee Research Centre
  • Bob the Beeman – rescues and relocates colonies of Native Stingless Bees

Native plants for butterflies


To encourage butterflies to your garden you’ll need to provide both plants for the caterpillars and a good range of nectar rich flowers throughout the year for the butterflies. A source of water is also required – a bird bath is ideal. Local native plants from your region are the best choice.

Here are some that a suitable for the greater Brisbane area:

Ground covers and herbs:

  • Love flower
  • Spade flower
  • Stinging nettle
  • Yellow buttons

Native grasses:

  • Kangaroo Grass
  • Lomandra
  • Pademilon Grasses (Oplismenus)


  • Bolwarra
  • Brisbane Wattle
  • Coffee Bush
  • Dogwood
  • Forest hop Bush
  • Green Wattle
  • Native Finger Lime
  • Native Plum
  • Pavetta


  • Brown Kurrajong
  • Brush Box
  • Crown of Gold Tree
  • Lacebark Tree
  • Macadamia
  • Melaleuca and Callistemon
  • Rusty Gum
  • Sandpaper figs
  • Tuckeroo

Vines and Palms:

  • Barbed Wire Vine
  • Monkey Rope
  • Native Wisteria
  • Piccabeen Palm
  • Richmond Birdwing Vine

Where to buy local native plants around Brisbane


There are a number of great little places where you can buy local native plants in and around Brisbane. The top four are my favourite places for variety and price:

Northey Street City Farm

Corner of Northey and Victoria Streets,
Windsor QLD
Phone: (07) 3857 8775

Pine Rivers Community Nursery – Kumbartcho Sanctuary
Bunya Pine Court, Eatons Hill
Phone: (07) 3264 3953

Fairhill Native Plants and Botanic Gardens
114-132 Fairhill Road,
Ninderry (Yandina) QLD 4561
Phone: (07) 5446 7088

Nova Gardens Nursery
78a Settlement Road, The Gap, QLD
Phone: (07)  3300 4161

Morton Bay community plant nurseries:

Bribie Island Community Nursery
208 First Avenue, Bongaree
Phone: (07) 3410 0088

Caboolture Region Environmental Education Centre (CREEC)
150 Rowley Road, Burpengary
Phone: (07) 3888 9285

Redcliffe Botanic Gardens
Henzell Street, Redcliffe


More bees please

French royalty uses bees as a symbol of immortality and resurrection.

Recently many bee hives have been infected by colony collapse disorder, which is characterised by a rapid loss of mature bees. It may be caused by varroa mites, insect diseases or pesticides. One of the culprits could be varroa mite and Australia is the only continent that is free of this parasite.

Bees are important for the pollination of over 90 edible plants, so they play an important role in our ecosystems and food production.

Australia has a number of native stingless bees, that we can encourage to live in our backyards by planting the following:

Acacias, Banksia, Cassia (Senna), Emu bush, False sarsaparilla, Fan flower, Flax lillies, Gums, Grevillea, Guinea flower, Hakea, Honey Myrtles, Paperbarks, Paper daisy, Tea tree, and Westringia.

You’ll need a range of different flowering plants to ensure a constant supply of bees throughout the year. Other bee-friendly plants include:

Blue mist, Bergamont, Borage, Californian poppy, Candytuft, Chives, Cosmo, Dog rose, European honeysuckle, Hyssop, Larkspur, Lavender, Lungwort, Nasturtiums, Rosemary, Sage, Sunflower, Thyme, Yarrow and Verbena.

For further information watch the trailer of the upcoming The Vanishing of the bees or check out our Plants for honey bees.

Please contact  Bob the Beeman if you need help to rescue and/or relocate any bee hives in the Brisbane area.

Are bees the new canary in the coal mine?

Potted berries

Sunday was a productive afternoon in the garden. The mild weather was a pleasant change from the strong winds and cold evenings.

A large long box arrived from The Diggers Club a fortnight ago, so it was time to repot some of the miniature fruit trees into large plastic pots. We now have a babaco and berries – goose, marion, and two types of raspberry. I haven’t worked out a good home for the spiky berries, so they will temporarily live next to the other fruit trees. We also repotted three different guavas – pineapple, Chilean and yellow.

Our older native raspberry had three red fruit ready so it was time for the long awaited taste test. Matt thought it was pretty tasteless and I thought it was tart.

I finished off the forth bed with some seedlings of mini white cauliflower and baby broccoli. I  added some silverbeet and tomatoes in the bare patches. All four beds are now full and hopefully it won’t be long before they start producing more. It feels like cheating buying seedlings, but they save me a month of so of growing time.

The choko and passionfruit vines have slowed down and are dying back.

The peas are so delicious off the bush that there haven’t been enough to make it into a boiling pot of water for dinner.

Animal homes

Providing a dedicated home for the animals in your garden will contribute to their health and well-being. Encouraging native wildlife to nest or visit will ensure they return to your garden to play an active role in keeping down pest numbers. Did you know that micro-bats love eating mosquitoes and can catch up to 500 insects per hour?

Here are some alternative and funky animal homes to consider:

Nest boxes

Bat boxes

Bee hives


Dogs and cats

Bush tucker for backyards

Before we got interested in growing our own food, we planted over a hundred Australian natives around our garden borders. Grevilleas are our favourite, and I’m pretty sure you could fill an entire backyard with all the different varieties.

Last year we attended a session on bush tucker at Kumbartcho by Jan Sked, and realized that if we had chosen a little better we could have added more bush tucker plants in our garden. It’s really important to correctly identify any plant you wish to eat or cook with because many natives have poisonous berries and leaves.

Here are some Australian plants that are edible and suitable for a suburban backyard.

If you are interested in exploring native food cooking, grab a copy of the self-published “Go Native – Wild Food Cookbook” by Jan Sked (email: Here are some of the better cookbooks as recommended by Jan Sked:

Tree planting and mulching

When planting out a native or a fruit tree into the garden it is helpful to mulch around the root zone to ensure it gets off to a good start. In the initial stages a seedling will have to compete with the weeds and grass for water and nutrients. As the tree matures the roots will be much deeper into the soil and have a better chance of survival. Mulch also helps reduce moisture evaporation from the soil.

Ten years ago it was the fashion to use thick black plastic sheets to keep weeds out. It was very effective, but did not allow good water, air and nutrient penetration so it’s less popular these days. A better alternative is a biodegradable ground cover or weed mat. These are sold as sheets of recycled fabric or paper. You can also buy squares for trees that have pre-cut holes in them. They retain moisture well and keep the weeds out. Add mulch on top to cover and disguise.

Using layers of newspaper and cardboard as weed prevention is a popular permaculture technique. You can also use black plastic or old carpet as a way to kill grass and weeds. (Do not use synthetic carpet or coloured magazine paper as they can leach nasty chemicals into the soil). Cover the area for several weeks, move to a new area and then replace the bare patch with a thick layer of mulch.

You may like to plant a living mulch around the base of your tree. Typically a living mulch is a dense ground cover. Suitable Australian natives include Banksia Roller Coaster, Banksia Pygmy Possum, Creeping Banksia, Creeping Boobialla, Grevillea Poorinda Royal Mantle, Grevillea gaudichauidii, Guinea Flower, Matted Bush Pea and Prostrate Red Grevillea.

Any other suggestions?