I first became aware of native bees and their amazing tasting honey during a holiday on a remote NT cattle station in the early 1980s. While out mustering one day the indigenous stockmen we were with found a large sugar bag (native bee hive) in a tree.
They chopped the limb down, brought it back to the station and proceeded to drain large quantities of honey from the log by poking a stick repeatedly in the cavity. The honey that drained out over the next few days was the most wondrous thing I had ever tasted.
A few years later, while working as a remote area nurse in the Kimberley, our family took every opportunity to look for sugarbag with the locals. The locals ate pretty much everything in the hive: the brood, the pollen, wax and honey. Well, you do have to spit the wax out after a while. But what a treat – real bush tucker!
It was about this time I started to play the didgeridoo and discovered importance of the sugarbag wax for moulding the mouthpiece and plugging holes.
When my family moved to the Lockyer Valley in the early 1990s I learnt that native hives could be boxed and cared for. The honey could be collected without destroying the hive’s brood and the hive could also be split in two.
So began my most rewarding hobby of keeping native bees. I now keep bees around Southeast Queensland from the Sunshine Coast to northern NSW and out to the Darling Downs.
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