• 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.
Used with kind permission from Eco Films Australia • 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.
For more information about these bees (or any other Australian native bee species) visit these other great websites.
These bees won't forage when it's night time, when it's below 18°C or when it's raining
At around 18°C you may see them congregate around the hive entrance. Guard bees will emerge to patrol and survey the immediate area
At around 19°C scouts fly off in search of sources of pollen, nectar and resin. Foragers soon follow
At 22°C cleaner bees will be removing hive waste, guards bees will be patrolling the area and checking out the foragers arriving back at the hive
Above 25°C the bees should be hard at work foraging, housekeeping, defending & laying down resin near the entrance
Temps above 39°C will stress the colony. Inside, the bees will be actively cooling the hive by lining up and fanning their wings