Photos courtesy of www.aussiebee.com.au and thanks to Erica Siegel and Anne Dollin for the great photos
There are over 1500 native bee species in Australia that pollinate our bushland flora and garden flowers. Australian native bees can be black, yellow, red, metallic green or even black with blue polka dots! They can be fat and furry, or sleek and shiny. Along with honey bees, wasps and bats, our native bees are responsible for much of the pollination or our food crops and orchard plants. Commercial pollination services with Australian stingless bees are already available and have produced impressive results particularly with macadamia and watermelon crops.
Most Australian bees are solitary bees that raise their young in burrows in the ground or in tiny hollows in timber. We also have 11 species of social native bees (including Tetragonula and Austroplebeia) which do not sting and live in colonies! The easiest species to keep in coastal areas between Nowra NSW and Bundaberg Qld is the Tetragonula carbonaria (Sugarbag bee) - a stingless bee endemic to Australia.
Stingless bee honey is called Sugarbag and was prized by Aboriginals who collected it from wild nests. Stingless bees store their flavoursome honey in clusters of small resin pots near the extremities of the nest. The resin adds a wide variety of tangy flavours to the honey, such as lemon or eucalyptus. The honey is delicious drizzled over ice cream! However, sugarbag honey is a rare product and only to be savoured as each hive only produces about 1 kg of honey per year. Only harvest their wild honey if you are in a warm part of Australia where these small bees have produced a surplus of honey stores.
In March this year, Ku-ring-gai Council's Wild Things project celebrated their 500 Club. Together they have reached a target of 500 native bee hives raised and distributed to bee friendly home gardens throughout their region. Congratulations!
Take a minute to link to our review of Tim Heard's new book on Native Bees. It's a very comprehensive resource on these beneficial insects and the photos are exquisite.
Coming soon: Jessie Grace's article on another wonderful native pollinator - the Micro bats
Splitting a native bee hive - Tim Heard