The Sunshine Coast bees are loving the Purple Torch (Bartlettina sordida) at the moment.
Looking for native stingless bees takes practice. It is an exercise in mindfulness. They don’t hide from us; it is just that they are so small we don’t usually take notice of them.
Take your time. Carefully and patiently take in your environment, using all your senses. Even one bee in flight can alert you to a hive entrance, or perhaps you hear a whir of wings, or notice a dense honey smell that signals a hive nearby.
Make a habit of checking the flowering plants around you; view them at different times during the day if you can. This will give you a great insight into the pollinators you have in that area.
One good way to practise insect spotting is to stand in the shade of a tree, and gradually scan the sides of the trunk and branches for movement in the halo of sunlight.
If you see a stingless bee, its hive is within a 500 metre radius of that spot. Do a 380-degree turn, asking yourself – ‘If I was a bee, where would I make my home in this environment?’ Bees in nature make their hives in rock crevices up high or on the ground, in hollow branches and tree trunks, termite mounds, earth banks, and even bull skulls! Bees living around people make their hives in walls, doors, under cement flooring or footpaths – in any hollow object really that will offer some protection.
If you are not sure what insect you are looking at (remembering there are about 2000 solitary Australian bees and many other insect pollinators), catch one with a butterfly net and take a photo on your smart phone through a clear glass jar. Post your photo to Facebook groups such as Bee Aware of your Native Bees or Australian Native Bees and someone will magically come back with identification within a day.
Remember the solitary bees can sting, as can wasps of course, so handle insects carefully!
If you own a hive, keep observing your hive and get used to recognising your bees in flight, in and around the hive. This practice will help you spot them elsewhere. It will help train your eyes and senses to recognise them.
Note when your bees are active and when they are not. When they are active it is a good time to practice looking for them in the garden or out bush. (If your bees are active then the wild ones will most likely also be active.) The bees go through stages of being less active in cooler weather and when pollen and nectar supplies are low or of a poorer quality, like at the end of a hot day and during times of the year when food is scarce.
I am always happy to chat about any of the above. Happy hunting and bee good!
The important questions to ask anyone selling boxed native Australian bees:
What species of bee are they? Do they belong to your area?
Some types are better pollinators and honey producers than others. Obviously this also depends on your location and climate. It is always preferable to have a boxed hive of the bees that are endemic to your area.
What timber is the box made from, and how thick are the walls?
When I split hives for customers I see boxes with varying degrees of quality.
Some boxes are only 20mm thick and are made from plantation pine, which will not last as long as other timbers exposed to the elements. I have seen some with wood rot in them – they need replacing after a few years! Some are well made, but again the wood will not last in our harsh climate.
Ideally walls should be at least 40–50mm thick. Mine are made from hardy Australian cypress pine.
How many coats of paint do the boxes have?
Some of the boxes I have seen have only one or two coats of paint – not enough to protect the wood. Ask for three.
When was the hive last split?
Split hives are best left for a minimum of three months or longer before they are sold. In SE Qld and mid-to-north NSW my hive-splitting season is from September to early February, depending on the weather and morning temperatures. The northern Australian bees hives can be split year round.
Does the box have a honey super on it?
This is important if you would like home grown honey now and again. When you first get your hive, weigh it so that you can see as time goes by if the hive is thriving (getting heavier) and/or producing honey.
If it does have a honey super, when was the hive last robbed of honey?
If the hive is newly split it probably won’t have any honey in the super.
What material are any dividers made from and how many are used in the box?
This is important when it comes to robbing the honey. Some materials used to make dividers just create a mess of spilt honey when it comes to robbing a hive.
What is used to hold the box together?
Ask your supplier how each hive section is secured to the next. (Full boxed hives with honey can weigh up to 15kg and can break apart if they are not adequately held.)
What is used to protect the hive from small hive beetle?
Ideally there will be hive beetle traps, or metal mesh across the entrance and all air/drip holes.
How is the hive to be mounted?
There are many ways to do this. One way is to attach a pipe to the side of the hive which fits over a star picket for easy of placement in the garden.
We hope this is helpful: Bee forearmed and bee prepared!
Happy native bee keeping, regards, Matthew
South African Small Hive Beetle
Over the past several years I have seen South African Small Hive Beetle destroy native bee hives around South East QLD and northern NSW
Please visit Aussie Bee web site for a comprehensive report on these pests.
They pose a real threat to native bee hives, even healthy full hives.
I have found that by placing a metal mesh guard across the entrance and any other air or drip holes and
ensuring all timber joints are well tapped helps protect the hive from this menace.
This season I was asked to split a persons hives in Brisbane.
One hive was completely destroyed and full of hive beetle maggots.
The owner was most distressed by the sight and loss of her much loved hive.
Fortunately I was able to provide metal mesh guards to cover all holes on her other hives.
The hive beetle look like little lady beetles but are brown all over.
Take care and protect all your hive entrances and holes.
Be so careful when splitting hives, ensure this done carefully and quickly and ensure air tight seals; hive beetles will be attracted to split hives straight away if they are around.
Beegood Beesafe Beesound
Hi Native Bee enthusiasts,
I came across an interesting article about native bees in the Kimberley, WA (see link below).
As you know I have hives in both the East and West Kimberley for sale.
Enjoy! Regards, Matthew
at this time of year our bees tend to get the sticky seeds from cadagi trees (Eucalyptus torelliana or Corymbia torelliana) stuck on their boots, and wipe them off at the door as they return home. These then get stuck in the crim safe (or even the open doorway) and can completely clog up the entrance. If you notice this, just brush them off with a stiff brush, or take off the little screen door if there is one and poke the seeds out with something like the end of a paper clip.
thanks for taking the time!
Hi Native Bee keepers,
With wild wet weather forecast for south east Queensland over the next few days, please remember to check your hives.
If the ground becomes too soggy, hives have been known to topple over if placed on a star picket. So:
Let’s hope we enjoy the rain without any damage.
Bee here now,