Bye For Now, Building a Buzz

The Building a Buzz for Beneficial Bugs (BABFBB) project, focusing on the promotion of beneficial insect biodiversity through habitat manipulation in Horticulture, has come to an end this October.

BABFBB came about when NACC NRM was a successful applicant of a State NRM funded Community Stewardship Grant in 2020. The NACC NRM team presented that there was a call for insect biodiversity conservation as over 40% of insect species globally are under the threat of extinction. By engaging local landholders, this project establishes demonstration sites, integrating increased biodiversity as a tool to efficiently reduce pesticide use. The project aimed to provide horticulturalists with opportunities to increase their skills, knowledge, and capacity to implement sustainable land management practices. This project provides the tools needed to create a more regenerative, insect-friendly industry, and promotes the importance of insects to biodiversity. The project was an extension of the research trials which Professor Gurr and his team at Charles Sturt University and Hort Innovation have been heavily involved in. 

Building a Buzz kicked off at the start of 2021 with consultations from Professor Geoff Gurr at Charles Sturt University, David Knowles (Entomologist), local representatives from DPIRD, Ian Pulbrook from Green Oil Nursery and two NAR horticulture growers, Bao Duy Nguyen of Sun City Produce, and Jack Davoren of Chally Bridge Farms. 

BABFBB had two demonstration sites in horticulture systems in the Midwest. A mixture of Sweet Alyssum, Marigold, Buckwheat, Blue Cornflower and Pink and White Everlastings were sown within Bao’s cucumber growing tunnel in Walkaway, and adjacent to Jack’s brassicas in Isseka. Native vegetation shrubs were also planted as windbreaks in strategic spots near the vegetable crops. Sticky insect traps were used to monitor the presence of beneficial and pest insects at both sites during the growing season by the NACC NRM team. The traps were sent to entomologists David Knowles (Spineless Wonders) and DPIRD entomologists for identification. The insect trapping data revealed there was 8628 individual insects and 172 different species of insects found on the traps over the two years at both demonstration sites. Some common and abundant beneficial insects found at the sites were hoverflies, parasitic wasps, spiders, lacewings, and lady bugs. Some common pest insects were Green Peach aphids, Western Flower thrips, Onion thrips, Diamondback moths and leafhoppers. Read the full report here.

In 2021, the NACC NRM team ran a community awareness workshop making native ‘insect hotels’ at the Mingenew Expo. Over 40 people came to make them and learn about the importance of beneficial insects in their gardens and in our region. The NACC NRM team won ‘Best Education and Information Display’ at the Expo. Another achievement in 2021 was the Soil Health Webinar in October. Joel Williams from Integrated Soils and Prof. Geoff Gurr videoconferenced to local growers and TAFE students about the benefits of companion plants for improving soil biodiversity and for horticulture pest management.  

2021 came with setbacks for our growers with damage from Cyclone Seroja and horticulture labour shortages. These setbacks caused the demonstration sites to be unsuccessful, and the project was granted an extension into 2022 to re-establish the demonstration sites and continue the insect monitoring.  

The insect-attracting flowering plants were sown again in April 2022, and the native tree windbreaks were planted by Ian Pulbrook (Green Oil Nursery) in September. The ‘Beneficial Bugs’ poster was released in February, with the help of David Knowles and, Dr. Kit Prendagast. NACC NRM would like to extended our appreciation to Kit and Dave for their images and information, and the Irra Wanga Language Centre (Bundiyarra) for the Wajarri insect names. The poster’s aim is to spread awareness of the abundance and diversity of the beneficial native insects in our region to community members. The poster can be downloaded here.

The final event for Building a Buzz was the Field Walk and Insect Identification workshop in August 2022. 45 horticulture growers, TAFE students, industry people and community members joined us at the two demonstration sites to see the set up and outcomes of the project first hand. The field walk was then followed by an insect ID workshop for people to identity the difference between the beneficials and pests in their horticulture systems and/or gardens. The main take home message from this event was SNAP. SNAP stands for shelter, nectar, alternative source of prey and pollen, and are the key elements to encourage and keep beneficial insects in your system/garden.  

Thank you to everyone who was involved in Building a Buzz over the two years. It has been an awesome and rewarding project for the NACC NRM team to work on. You can read all about everyone’s key learnings and highlights of the project here in this case study. 

We’ll BUZZ you later! 

This project is supported by funding from the Western Australian Government’s State NRM Program. 

Anna Cornell – Sustainable Agriculture Project Officer

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Well done Anna! This was my favourite project and it’s been great to see it get completed. Lizzie

What an interesting & educational project, as a field-day participant it was the most beneficial & interesting day ever. The demo partners were very enlightening & this project results should be spread wider that our region. Hopefully Horticulture Australia will promot to all their members.

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