Native Bees

native bee hive being split by Dr Tim Heard.

Article created on May 15th,2014

Australia has around 2000 types of bee spread over this vast land. Most of the bees in Australia are solitary bees, which means unlike the honey bee, who survival depends on the queen and swarm, solitary bees buzz about by themselves. Most of them make little holes in trees or rock and lay only as few eggs at a time. They still feed the lavea enough pollen and food to gestate and then leaves it alone till they hatch. Only a few variety’s of native bees are social bees. Social bee types need to be in the swarm or hive as they will not survive for long without the group. This hive mentality is what defines the social from the solitary bees.

So social bees are where we get honey as they are the only guys who need to store it for the winter for the swarm. Apis Malefra, or the European Honey Bee is the best at hiving away honey in the amounts that they allow us to process it.  In Australia we have a bee that is good at hiving honey but it is so small that it only produces a small amount of honey.

Tetragonula,( Sugar Bag Bee) is the species name given to Australia’s stingless social  bees. There are about 6 species that are social and make and live in hives where they store honey and pollen and lay new babies for the colony. The Tetragonula hive is an amazing thing. The bees build a spiral of brood comb in the centre of the hive and store the pollen and Honey in large irregular spheres around the outside of the comb. This is how they regulate temperature for the brood, by controlling the air flow.

The sugar bag bee  doesn’t swarm like the european honey bee, instaead, the colony finds a place to set up the new hive, after there is sufficient food stores and wax built up then the original hive sends a queen with bees to the new hive position to strart a new colony. Sugar bag bees can have multiple queen cells and queens in the hive at any time with only 1 laying at a time. If that queen fails in any way then there will be a new queen that taikes her place and starts laying for the colony. They produce a small amount of honey each season, which tastes very different to European honey bee honey.

Resin bees are another type of native bee we find in Australia. These guys are solitary bees that build houses out of resin s or saps that they can find in there environment. They will use resins to stick together leaves and wood to line there holes where they lay there young. They often make multiple holes with multiple lavea being laid in each. The young are fed enough for the gestational process and then left alone till they get big enough to leave by them self. This is a similar nesting process for most of the soliary bees in Australia.

The Mortar bee is a Australian native bee that is found quite often nesting in the mortar of brick walls and in chimineys, which is where it gets it’s name. These guys are a solitary bee found in most states of Australia.