Conor Teevan’s IDEA LAB grant is giving native bees sanctuary (and getting honey in return)
“It’s just trying to get into people’s faces about how we can do small things that make a big impact,” says Conor Teevan.
Teevan is the guy behind the IDEA LAB grant-winning initiative, the Bee Team, and the head bartender at Wollongong’s Births & Deaths.
“The Bee Team is an ecologically-driven not for profit, that is creating a sanctuary for native bees in the heart of the Illawarra with a focus on education, sustainability and respect for the land,” he says.
“I was getting to a point where I felt like I could be doing more,” Teevan says. “I wasn’t in a management position at work, and I wanted to take on more responsibility. The opportunity arose to put forward an idea [for the IDEA LAB] and get a project started.”
Teevan’s work at Births & Deaths provided the initial inspiration for the idea, he says.
“Working at Births & Deaths, we have such a focus on native botanicals and native Illawarra things, because we are in the Illawarra. And so that’s sort of sparked this love for botanicals,” Teevan says.
And it’s the love for those ingredients, and taking care of the environment that fosters them, which brought Teevan to the Bee Team idea.
“I knew that bees are extremely important to agriculture and just the balance of ecosystems,” he says. “But doing further research, I figured out just how important they are and how simple it would be to just give them a helping hand.”
And give them a hand he is.
The aim of the Bee Team is simple: provide a sanctuary of sorts for a native, local Illawarra bee variety, Tetragonula carbonaria. “They’re native to all along the east coast of Australia up to Illawarra,” Teevan says. “It’s just a garden filled with native Illawarra flora that is attractive to pollinators,” he says. “We’ve going to make a safe space for bees to exist without the fear of neonicotinoid pesticides and other harmful things.”
It’s not a purely selfless act, however — Teevan is expecting to get something delicious out of the exercise, too.
Whereas the common European bee produces honey, it also gives you a good sting if you’re not doing things correctly. Native bees, on the other hand, are stingless.
“Tetragonula bees produce honey. That’s pretty cool,” says Teevan. “I chose stingless bees. One, because they’re native to here, and two, because it means that I can invite people into the garden safely. I don’t need a beekeeping license for it, which is pretty wild, and there’s no harm of anyone being stung or any anaphylactic incidents. And I get honey at the end of it, which is pretty cool.”
Teevan is quick to point out, however, that he hasn’t done this alone. “The Bee Team started out as just a fun name but I wouldn’t’t be able to do this without help from people in my community,” says Teevan. “I’m only 24 years old and have no experience running projects like this so everything has been a steep learning curve. If I didn’t have people helping me like Krips Long (Howlin’ Wolf), Jared Huk (Births & Deaths), Tom Opie (Births & Deaths), Ben Abraham (Good Times Only), Samuel Morgan (Sonny’s Wine Shop) and Jacob Williams (Wollongong Council), I would have failed long ago.”
Lucky for the bees — and for the rest of us — that he didn’t.
More to come on this project! So WATCH THIS SPACE!