Native Bee Group
Over the past few years, keeping native bees has become very popular in the northern parts of Australia, and particularly in Brisbane. There are three main reasons why people keep native bees:
they are an easy care pet,
they are very good for pollinating native and exotic plants,
about 0.8 kg of honey a year can be collected from an active hive.
The Native Bee Group at Mount Gravatt Men’s Shed has meetings every third Wednesday of the month (except January) in the Meeting Room at the Shed building. New members are welcome. If you are a member of the Shed, just come along to one of our regular meetings; there is no charge to join. If you are not yet a Shed member, you will have to join the Shed and pay the required fees first.
Some members of the Native Bee Group are experienced native beekeepers while others are just starting out in beekeeping. Experienced members pass on advice and tips from their many years of experience. The Group is also designing a standard hive for native bees that can eventually be made in the Shed Workshop. Some Group members make their own hives.
Of the 25,000 bee species worldwide, some 2,000 species are native to Australia. About 10 Australian native species are social; they live together in large nests and produce ‘sugarbag’ honey which is watery and tangy compared with commercial honey. The other native bee species are solitary; they live individually in small holes and don’t produce honey.
Native bees are usually not aggressive. While social bees are stingless, solitary bees have a sting but only large ones will sting a person if handled or squashed.
Native bees need to be protected from high and very low temperatures. They won’t leave the hive in temperatures below 18⁰C; above 42⁰C will kill them. Hives need to be well-insulated because native bees cannot regulate the hive temperature.
Here are three Australian social bee species that people often keep. These bees are very small, about 4 mm long and look a bit like small black flies, though they are actually bees.
Tetragonula carbonaria: occurs from Bundaberg to southern NSW and is the most commonly kept species.
Tetragonula hockingsi: occurs along tropical coastal Queensland and is also commonly kept in Queensland.
Austroplebeia australis: occurs from northern NSW through Queensland and the Northern Territory to the Kimberley in Western Australia. It is abundant in drier areas and is calmer than the other two species.