The first time I heard about the Australian Native Stingless Bees was about 5 years ago at Sprout Café in Auchenflower. They had a hive, and I was very interested to learn more. As I am allergic to European Bees I have never encouraged bees into my garden but finding out there are Native Australian Bees that do not sting excited me. The more I researched these little bees the more fascinated I became.
Australia has over 1500 species of Native bees but only about 10 species are social bees, meaning they live in a colony with a queen, workers and drones. All other Australian Native Bee Species are solitary.
The most common stingless bees are Austroplebeia & Tetragonula. They are tiny compared to honey bees (as you can see by the picture) and are great to watch.
Austroplebeia & Tetragonula bees mainly live in northern states of Australia and require stable warm conditions to flourish. Native Bees will rarely leave their nest if temperatures are less than 18 degrees and temperatures over 40 degrees can be fatal to a hive.
Native bees are fantastic to have in your garden, and there are plenty of places where you can purchase established hives for somewhere around $350 – $450. Most sellers are very keen to provide all the information and support you need to keep your Native Bees happy and healthy.
Having a Native Bee hive in your garden serves 2 purposes:
Firstly you are assisting with the regeneration of the Native bee population which has been in decline due to habitat reduction and by competition from European Bees. In fact all bees worldwide are in decline but that is a whole other article.
Secondly, if you have a vegetable garden or are wanting a lot of flowers in your garden. Native bees are excellent pollinators. They will assist in pollination and increase the amount of vegies and flowers your plants yield.
Don’t expect to get a lot of honey out of a native bee hive, as native bees only make about 1kg of honey per year in comparison to a commercial honey bee hive which generates around 100kgs per year. The hive structure is quite different to that of a European honey bee; native bees have a beautiful spiral shaped brood comb.
Native bee honey is known as ‘sugar bag’ and has been prized by Aborigines for centuries. It is an extremely important source of carbohydrate for them and is also used as a medical remedy. Sugarbag has a very different flavour to commercial honey. It has a tangy flavour with hints of citrus and eucalyptus – it’s different, tangy, sweet and delicious!
I really encourage everyone who is interested in gardening, the environment or just wants an interesting talking point in their garden to investigate getting an Australian Native Bee Hive. I am sure you will not regret it.