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From classroom hives to community outreach, Bee Ambassador Julie Leal is creating plenty of buzz around Australia’s vital pollinators

One of the first Wheen Bee Foundation Bee Ambassadors, recreational beekeeper Julie Leal is on a mission to educate and inspire others about the significance of bees.

“I was intrigued by the realm of considerations that encompass bees and their habitat – such as their role in food production, the business of bees, fighting diseases and pests such as Varroa, and the research and development of Queen bees to combat this,” Julie says.

“My aim is to create more knowledge and public awareness about bees and all pollinators, and I saw the Wheen Bee Foundation Ambassador training as an opportunity to learn more and reach more people.

“A lot of people are so urbanised and don’t realise the connection to food, creatures and insects.”

Julie’s appreciation for bees began growing up on a farm in the Hawkesbury region of New South Wales where she learned about the role of pollinators and food production.

A qualified primary school teacher, Julie became a Wheen Bee Foundation Bee Ambassador in 2019 to combine her agricultural background and education skills with her passion for bees. She has since become the local go-to person on the Northern Beaches for bee-related matters.

“If a community group or business wants an information presentation, I usually get called up. It might be a talk for a local plant group, Bunnings, or sustainability festival – I’m always promoting bees when I can,” she says.

“I like to encourage diverse planting of bee-friendly flowers and shrubs as this helps farmers and gardeners to have an abundance of insect life which creates healthy soils.”

A teacher at a Steiner school, Julie integrates bee education into her classroom teachings.

“I’ve got three hives at school and 10 veils,” Julie says. “My students are quite comfortable around bees as I incorporate bee education into a lot of lessons.

“On World Bee Day on May 20 I always get dressed up in the bee suit and go around to each classroom and give a talk, and at assembly I tell the students about the pollinator count and encourage them to get on board.

“I get excited when the kids get excited – they’re just so inquisitive and interested and that means they’ll care about the world.”

Julie says she would love to reshape how people view bees.

“Let them come into your garden, don’t run away,” she urges. “Stop and let them be, watch them. They can be pets.

“’They’re not pets’, people say to me. I say, ‘they’re my pets’. I go and look at them at night, I listen to them, when I work them I go gently with them, I speak to them.

“I would love for us all to embrace the good and the bad, the ugly and the nice of all creatures, and the importance of bees, and all pollinators, all insects.”

Julie says being part of the Wheen Bee Foundation Bee Ambassador Network gives her an authoritative framework to draw upon as she shares her knowledge.

“The Wheen Bee Foundation gives me structure, along with resources to offer people further information,” she says. “I’m passionate about bees and being an ambassador, and the Foundation gives me a platform – and they’re supported by individuals and corporations that are invested in growing awareness of bees and pollinators with greater crop diversity.”

Julie encourages others to join the Bee Ambassador Network, a volunteer group of bee advocates dedicated to creating a more sustainable world for bees, and contribute to a collective effort to protect bee populations.

“We need to have more people talking about the importance of bees, and how they help give us food, and keep us healthy. There’s a benefit for humans too. It’s a win-win.”

Enrolments are now open for the next Bee Ambassador Training Program. The three-day residential training program will be held in Melbourne from June 21-24. Click here for more information.

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