Native Bee Day

On Saturday I became the proud owner of a hive of native stingless bees, Trigona carbonaria.

Damo had done some web-searching and found that Tim Heard, a CSIRO entomologist and native bee specialist, supplies colonies and his brother, Frank, makes specially designed hives for them.

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Stingless bees and honeybees happily co-exist. Happily Brisbane provides an ideal climate for stingless bees which are a tropical species.

Tim found a good location for the hive in our spice border. It’s sheltered and shaded from hot western and northern sunshine.

The hive entrance unplugged, the bees quickly spilled out. At first they flew out a short distance, circled and returned to the hive. They were memorising their new surroundings, Tim explained. “They won’t start gathering nectar and pollen until tomorrow”, he added.

Tim says a happy colony will produce 1 kg of sugarbag honey a year and that strong colonies can be split once a year.

Native stingless bees are often mistaken for fruit fly because they’re about 1/25 the size of a honeybee. This species flies up to 500 metres to forage.

So far they seem content, emerging around 10am and are in bed by 3pm. Yesterday I noticed one in a nearby Blue Chalksticks flower, Senecio serpens, so this pretty succulent now has added value.

If you want to learn about native beekeeping, Tim holds three workshops a year and his website, ‘Sugarbag’, is at: http://www.sugarbag.net

See ‘Aussie Bee’ the official website of the Australian Native Bee Research Centre at: http://www.zeta.org.au/~anbrc

Concerned about biodiversity loss? Jennie Churchill presented a great segment on native bees for Gardening Australia. Jennie mentioned why the proposal to introduce European bumble bees to aid in the pollination of glasshouse tomatoes would be harmful and unnecessary. Native bees can do the job! See this Fact Sheet is at: http://www.abc.net.au/gardening/stories/s1178534.htm

Jerry Coleby-Williams
6th May 2008