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Kangaroo Island

© Remko Lejis


Conservation benefit: Saving the native green carpenter bee from extinction

Date Approved: 04.2020

In early 2020, the worst bushfires in history tore across Australia, causing unprecedented destruction. Prompted by images of injured or dead koalas and kangaroos, support poured in from people around the world. At the same time, some lesser-known species face an even greater threat.

One such species is the green carpenter bee. Even before the fires, these once abundant shimmering green and gold bees had already lost most of their historic habitat. The only populations left were on Kangaroo Island and in part of New South Wales—and the bushfires devastated both areas.

On Kangaroo Island, the fires destroyed most of the trees that the bees nest in, such as banksia and yacca. (Unlike bees that nest in groups, the solitary green carpenter bee burrows into soft wood to make its nest.) Without a place to nest, the species is in danger of rapid extinction.

Working with the Australian conservation group the Wheen Bee Foundation, Seacology is providing a critical lifeline for these native bees. We are funding hundreds of artificial nests, which our project partner will place in key areas on Kangaroo Island. They will provide crucial nesting habitat for the carpenter bees while the trees grow back.

This project will fund enough nests for the next three years. This is a critical period that will make or break the future of the species.

This project was funded by our Earth Day 2020 crowdfunding campaign. We are deeply grateful to those who, in such a difficult time, supported this unique campaign to save a species from extinction!

Project Updates

June 2023

In February, biologists conducted a five-day survey of Kangaroo Island but found no carpenter bees or evidence of their activity. Despite this extremely discouraging news, it’s too early to conclude that the bee is extinct on the island. In October, a team will again look for bees in the heart of the largest unburnt area, where active nests were found in 2020 after the fire. The grass trees that shot up after the fire, which bees use for nests, are toppling over more quickly than expected. This will make it easier to spot bees and make artificial nesting stalks (funded by Seacology) more important.

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February 2023

The extremely cold and wet spring delayed the reproductive season and slowed the bees’ development. As a result, young bees were expected to emerge beginning in January 2023, and in February our partners will check nesting stalks, as well as the remaining nests located two years ago. They will also look for new nests. The grass trees that shot up after the fire will soon start to topple over, making it easier to find nests and to see how many bees are left.

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February 2022

Grass trees have flowered abundantly and will provide nesting places for bees for the next three years or so. After that, the artificial nesting stalks will be crucial. The Seacology grant will make it possible to create 650 artificial nesting stalks by then, enough for five to six years.

Our project partner continues to promote bee conservation to island residents. As a result, a landowner alerted our partner that the Department of the Environment planned a fuel reduction burn at a site that still had four natural bee nests. Our partner was able to prevent the fire.

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June 2021

Our partners have found that the bees are, unfortunately, not using the artificial nesting stalks. The good news is that the bees are not extinct on the island; two females were seen foraging last year, and in January, biologists found 20 nests at five sites. But these numbers are very low, and the population is patchy. Our project partners will keep monitoring the nesting stalks and will see if bees use them during the next Australian summer, which begins in December.

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February 2021

After making a detailed survey of the island to find remaining bees, volunteers placed 150 nesting stalks around the island during the Australian winter, from June to August. They plan to check the stalks in early 2021 to see how many are being used.

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July 2020

Thanks to many donors, we will be funding four years’ worth of artificial nesting material for green carpenter bees on Kangaroo Island! Our crowdfunding campaign raised even more than our goal, and we are looking forward to helping the bees make it through the next few critical years. Huge thanks to all the generous folks who are saving this species!

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