It's late afternoon at the hive and it's 18.2°C. It's not raining at the moment.
• There are over 1600 species of native bees in Australia and most are solitary bees. There are only 10 species of social native bees which live in hives, make honey and are stingless.
• In Australia, they are found mainly in warm areas in the northern and eastern parts of the country.
• Each hive has a queen, drones and thousands of sterile workers.
• In their natural environment, this species builds nests in tree cavities and hollow logs. In urban areas they have been found in old machinery, retaining walls, large pot plants and they seem particularly fond of water meter boxes.
• These bees will travel up to 500 meters but prefer to forage within about 100m of their hive. By contrast, honeybees will forage out to around 5km.
• Often caled 'Sugarbag' honey, Australian stingless bees only store about 1 kg of honey per year in their hives. In comparison, a hive of European honeybees can produce around 70 to 100 kg of honey.
• 'Sugarbag' honey has the consistency of maple syrup and has a distinctive bush taste - sweet and sour and tangy with a hint of citrus. The taste comes from plant resins which the bees use to build their hives and honey pots. It's pretty good on ice cream.
• Aborigines traditionally harvested Tc nests for their honey. To locate a hive, they would catch this tiny bee and tie a white feather to its leg with a hair, and then follow the feather as the bee went back to the hive.
• Stingless bees have been successfully used to pollinate commercial crops of watermelons, avocados, lychees and macadamias. Some in the horticultural industry place hives inside greenhouses to pollinate crops and flowers.
• Only in the last 30 years or so have stingless bees been successfully kept as 'pets' in specially constructed boxed hives. Each spring, these hives can be 'split' to create a second hive.
• Unlike a honey bee queen, a laying stingless queen never flies again and spends her entire life in the hive. As a result, a Tc colony will last for decades with countless generations of bees inhabiting the same hive.
• Depending on the hive's requirements, forages return with food stores such as pollen (protein) and nectar (carbohydrates). They also collect resin from trees which is mixed with wax and this forms the hive structure. The pollen and resin is carried on their back legs.
All of our native stingless bees are under threat from human development. Wild colonies are declining dramatically because of land clearing, logging etc. Urbanisation is destroying their natural habitat and leaving them nowhere to establish new hives. If you want to help conserve these little Aussie battlers, consider buying a hive and placing it in your yard. Like all of us here at Brisbane LIVE Weather, you'll soon be hooked.
For more information about these bees (or any other Australian native bee species) visit these other great websites.
- Aussie Bee Online
- Aussie Bee Facebook Page
- Tim Heard's Sugarbag website
- Russell and Janine Zabel's Native Bees Webpage
- and Russells appearance on ABC TV's Creature Feature program
- Wild Things TC webpage
- Yahoo Australian Native Bees Group
- Kin Kin Native Bees
- Steve's Native Bees
- Aussie native bees on Youtube
These bees won't forage when it's night time, when it's below about 17°C or when it's raining
At around 18°C they gather around the hive entrance. Guard bees emerge to patrol & survey the immediate area
At around 19°C scouts fly off in search of sources of pollen, nectar & resin. Foragers soon follow
At around 20°C cleaner bees begin removing hive waste. Guards bees patrol the entrance & check out any bees arriving back at the hive
Above 25°C the bees are hard at work foraging, cleaning, defending & laying down propolis near the entrance
Temps above 39°C will stress the colony. Inside, the bees will be actively cooling the hive by lining up & fanning their wings