Saverio Russo has millions of bees in the back of his truck. The Australian restaurateur and amateur bee rescuer has spent a year working to rehome thousands of native stingless bees, named Tetragonula carbonaria.
There are over 2,500 types of native bees found in Australia, but the Tetragonula carbonaria is the only species in Sydney that lives in a colony and makes honey. They are one of just 12 species that are stingless.
Mr. Russo loves to watch them work. He has 5 hives outside his office. Whenever he feels lazy, he looks out and sees the busy bees at work, so he gets back to work, too.
His love affair with the 3mm insect started as he searched for a birthday gift for his four-year-old son. He didn't know what to get him, so he bought him one hive. Three days later he bought himself 5 hives. A week later, he got another 16 hives.
The love affair spread rapidly to his neighbors. More than 20 homes on his street in south Sydney wanted their own hive.
This popularity boom birthed the Billion Bees Foundation, which is Mr. Russo's attempt to reintroduce native bees to the community and to bushfire-ravaged areas of NSW and southern Queensland.
In this unrelated 1:29-minute video by Garden Daydream Man, we see some little stingless bees at their hive:
They are partnering with arborists who let them know when there is a hive that can be rescued. They save them and give them a chance to grow strong.
Mr. Russo said the foundation gave rescued hives time to recover at an open reserve in Blakehurst. The foundation has also installed hives in childcare centers, where children get lessons on the importance of the bee in a healthy ecosystem.
Kids are naturally inquisitive and want to know about insects. They ask about all different kinds of bugs around them.
At the reserve where Mr. Russo keeps the bees, 6 flourishing hives support newly rescued colonies. He keeps the boxes and logs at the spot thanks to the local Georges River Council, which has gotten on board with the project.
Senior environment officer for the council, Lachlan Prentice, said the bee program was essential to turn the densely developed local government area into a green space. He said they have been actively educating the community about the benefits of native bees and the plight of native bees.
Mr. Prentice said they are also inspiring the community to increase habitat by building insect hotels. The bees thrive in urban areas like Sydney, with plenty of food and water resources like backyard vegetable patches and swimming pools.
For Mr. Russo's bees, the journey to their new home might be a little delayed, with demand for the pollinator outgrowing the foundation. He says people are waiting a year and a half to get a hive of their own.
It was so much more popular than he thought. Who can blame people? These bees make the perfect pet, according to Mr. Russo.
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