There are over 2000 species of native bees across Australia, most of these are solitary or semi social bees, with 11 known species of social stingless bees.
The solitary or semi social native bees generally build individual nests, many species build burrows in soil and some species in cavities above ground. They vary in size (6mm to 20mm) and colour – black, yellow, red, green and the blue banded bees are black with blue bands. With many common species in our area include the leaf cutter, teddy bear and the blue banded bees.
It is possible to create habitat for solitary/semi social in your garden by installing a a small bee hotel.
While the solitary/semi social bees are capable of a sting they are not usually aggressive, the social stingless bees do not sting but are capable of a small bite.
The social native bees common to our region include the tetragonula carbonaria and austroplebia austrais. Tetragonula carbonaria is the most commonly kept species.
Our social native bees are mostly black and around 2-4mm long.
A hive of tetragonula carbonaria is home to between 5,000 and 10,000 bees. Such a hive may produce up to 1Kg of honey depending of the local conditions and hive construction. Whereas a hive European honey bee (Apis mellifera) can easily produce 20-50kg of honey.
The honey from our native bees was referred to as sugarbag by Aboriginal people.
From time to time courses and talks are conducted in native bee keeping. Come along and learn about native bees; learn how to obtain a hive; find out about hazards, pests and diseases which might affect your hive; and discover how to have a native bee friendly garden.
To start keeping social native bees, you will need to purchase a hive with bees or arrange with someone to propagate by splitting or budding a hive.
Unlike keeping honey bees, you do NOT have to register your native stingless bee hives with the NSW Dept of Primary Industry.
A number of useful sites include:
The Australian Native Bee Research Centre
The Australian Native Bee Association
Bee Aware Brisbane
The club also manages a number of Australian native bee hives located within the grounds of Hunter Region Gardens.