Sweet partnership to save the bees – Valley Industries teams up with Taronga Zoo

Taronga Zoo is buzzing since it teamed up with Taree’s Valley Industries to create a new conservation and education program to support bee populations.

Valley Industries designed, built and installed a special bee exhibit to educate guests to Taronga Zoo about bee conservation and the importance of bees to the environment.

The custom built observation hive, based on a Langstroth hive, includes a brood box with supers. The hive has custom designed observation windows that provides a lateral view into the hive.

Taronga Zoo precinct manager, visitor education and animal experience manager, Elle Bombonato said keepers will closely monitor and inspect the hive to ensure that the bees are healthy and thriving.

“The hive will provide our guests with the opportunity get up close and appreciate the complex and fascinating inner workings of a bee colony. We want our guests to feel inspired to go home and plant bee friendly flowers!” Mr Bombonato said.

Mark Page, manager of Taree’s Valley Beekeeping Services, was responsible for the build and installation of the exhibit and describes how the partnership came about.

“As a child, my first visit to Taronga Zoo inspired me to think that I’d like to work in a zoo when I grew up. Well I didn’t fully get there, but I did follow my goal to work with critters,” Mr Page said.

“I first met Elle Bombonata of Taronga when I was running a training course ‘Beginning in Bees’ at Tocal College.

“Over the days we struck up a great relationship over the passion for protecting bees and this resulted in the opportunity for Valley Industries to help with building a display hive in the education precinct.

“Trent [Jennison, Valley Industries CEO] and I went to visit Taronga and agreed that we would build a three-frame brood box with homey frame with double perspex viewing frames into the box,” Mr Page said.

“At this stage, we were supplying only the exhibit; the bees were coming from elsewhere. But then Elle announced he couldn’t get the bees! It just so happened that Valley Industries had a hive of bees that would present well in the display.

“I then had to train the bees (in my shed at home) to use a tube entrance of about two metres to enter and exit the hive once they got to the zoo. The bees have been happily flying around and meeting the zoo visitors ever since,” Mr Page said.

Bees are an important indicator as to the state of the health of the environment and are vital to nature and a healthy ecosystem. They provide an invaluable service in pollination for food production, including all the nuts and fruits and vegetables that the other zoo animals rely on for their diet.

We know that global populations are declining, but there is a way that people at home can be part of the solution to help.

One way to make a significant impact is to plant flowering plants which attract bees to the garden. And if we can all limit our use of chemical insecticides that will also help bees thrive.