Native Bee Day

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

A little web-searching found that Dr 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 warm climate insects.

Tim found a good location for the hive in the 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 in a good year, a strong colony will produce 1 kg of sugarbag honey and these colonies can also be split once a year. Splitting encourages them to reproduce. Timed correctly, this invigorates colonies.

Native stingless bees may be mistaken for fruit fly, because they’re about 1/25 the size of a European honeybee. This species flies up to 500 metres from the hive to forage.

So far, my new bees seem content, emerging around 10am and they are back to bed by 3pm. Yesterday I noticed one in a nearby blue chalk-sticks flower, Senecio serpens, so this pretty succulent now has added value as a bee-forage plant.

If you want to learn about native beekeeping, the Australian Native Bee Association holds workshops. His his website – sugarbag – is at:

Also, see ‘Aussie Bee’ the official website of the Australian Native Bee Research Centre at:

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 at:

Jerry Coleby-Williams
6th May 2008


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