Hopefully this article will get you started in the right direction. This page lightly touches on everything from Bee species through workshops, publications and clubs.
Which bees do you like?
There’s over 2000 species of native bees in Australia, most of those are Solitary Bees, with 11 species being Social Stingless Bees.
As the name suggests just hang out by themselves and you don’t “keep” them. You can create suitable habitats to attract them to your yard, or build a Bee Hotel that creates a home for certain species. Some Solitary Bees build their nests under ground. We’d all love to keep bees like the Blue Banded Bee and Great Carpenter Bee but the most we can do is try to attract them to the area by creating gardens with suitable plants.
Bee hotels will only be usefull for certain kinds of bees, like Leaf Cutter Bees and Resin Bees. You can make your own Bee Hotel by drilling holes in a block of wood or wooden stump, or making a pile of Bamboo that has small hollows. You may also find some Bee Hotels available for sale on some websites. It can be best to buy hotels that are suitable for local native bees. Cheap bee hotels available from major shops may not be suitable.
These are the ones that you can buy and keep in hives. The most common species would be Tetragonula Carbonaria and Tetragonula Hockingsi, which live in areas along the east coast of Australia, from around Sydney and upwards.
If you want to supply your family or start selling honey these may not be the ones for you as they only produce small amounts of honey, roughly 1kg per year and it’s not simple to extract. A lot of people do extract the honey for personal use and some in the industry even sell it in limited quantities.
Where can you buy Stingless Bees?
Some things to be aware of before purchasing native bees
What species are suitable for your location. Most likely you’ll be buying Carbonaria, Hockingsi or Australis. Most sellers will post the hive including bees so you can discuss if your location is suitable with the seller.
Is the hive box made to a reasonable quality. Most boxes will be fine. You might want to avoid boxes that look really rough with gaps everywhere. Pests and water can enter via gaps.
Does the seller offer a guarantee. It’s not uncommon for random sellers on Gumtree to sell hives without much knowledge about the bees. Some people may sell a weak colony that has low chances of survival. They might be cheaper but the risk is higher, that’s ok if you know what you’re looking at. The safer option if you don’t know anything about stingless bees is to buy from a well known seller. They’ll offer a guarantee and also provide great advice and support later on if you have questions.
Prices for a box full with bees range from $350 to $800. A lot depends on the quality or design of the box, the strength of the colony and the quality of the seller and support you receive. It’s a good idea to do some research on bees and sellers so you know you’ll have support if you need it.
There’s a list of regular sellers on the aussiebee website listed here: https://www.aussiebee.com.au/buy-stingless-bees.html
…and also on the links page: http://nativebeehives.com/links/
Can i buy or make a box and get the bees later?
Native Stingless Bees are sold in their own box. You can’t buy the bee colony on its own.
If you have identified a stingless bee hive in a log or water meter, you could make or buy an empty box and transfer the colony to it. It’s not really recommended if you have no experience with native bees as you could end up killing the whole colony.
Sellers do sell empty boxes but they are intended for people that already have bees and are going to multiply their hives.
Native Bee Workshops
Workshops are a great hands on way to learn and are held by various people throughout the year. Keep an eye on the Native Bee Hive facebook page for upcoming events.
Native Bee Ag Guide by Tocal College
A GUIDE TO NATIVE BEES OF AUSTRALIA by Terry Houston
The Australian Native Bee Book by Tim Heard (focused on Stingless Bees)
Australian Stingless Bees by John Klumpp – (focused on Stingless Bees)
Sometimes it can be best to meet people in person. Many knowledgeable people don’t spend too much time on social media.
Brisbane Native Bee Keepers Club http://www.bnbeec.com.au/
Mary Valley Bees http://mrccc.org.au/valley-bees/
Clarence Valley Native Bees https://clarencenativebees.org/
Facebook Pages (different to groups) are great as people that run the page will just post technical information and updates about their bees. Some pages i’d recommend for learning about bees are:
- Sugarbag Bees – Tim Heard
- Northside Native Bees – David
- Sydney Native Bees – Dan Smailes
- Bee Yourself – Sarah Hamilton
- (more to be added)
Here’s some well managed groups with experienced knowledgeable members that i’d recommend:
- Sydney Native Bee Community – managed by Dan Smailes of Sydney Native Bees
- (more to be added)