no stiff drinks required when splitting my beehive…thanks to the urban bee farmer partnership

Posted by on Nov 27, 2015 in Home | 26 Comments

I tend to sweat the small stuff. So a few stiff drinks would be required if I had to split my own beehive. Oddly enough our hive of stingless bees are also referred to as sweat bees due to their habit of collecting human sweat. Perhaps the bees would have preferred my anxious, sweaty approach to the split. Alas, we were lucky enough to have Dr Toby Smith from Sugarbag (also founder of Bee Aware Brisbane) do the split for us. Toby works with renowned entomologist and native bee dealer Dr Tim Heard. Tim is probably the guy you want on your trivia team when it comes to Australian native stingless bees. Through Sugarbag, he has created an urban bee farmer partnership where he helps the owners of stingless bees to split and propagate hives for pollination and conservation. After our split, we gave Toby the daughter hive but next time we’ll keep it so we have several in the garden (they can be 3m apart). Toby also said it was one of the easiest splits he’s ever done…clearly my bees are better than anyone else’s. Another bonus included eating samples of sugarbag honey during the process. Sugarbag is real bush tucker and is rich, liquidy, lemony and almost tastes alcoholic. Stingless bees only produce about 1kg of sugarbag per year compared to honey bees which produce around 50kg.

Bees

There are 1600 species of native bees in Australia and only 14 of them are stingless. Most stingless bees are found in the tropical north and a few in sub-tropical regions (they like building nests in tree cavities). We keep Trigona carbonaria which are 1 of the 3 most commonly kept species. These clever, little black insects (4 mm long) fly up to 1km and are similar to honeybees in terms of their highly social behaviour and pollination (they store pollen and honey). This is unique to stingless bees as other Australian native species are solitary and cannot wait to chow down on their nectar or use it to stock a brood cell. Like honey bees, they also collectively care for their brood and have a queen, workers (infertile females) and drones (males). As you can see in the photos, the brood chamber is located in the centre of the spiral comb (looks like lentils to me) and is surrounded by pots of honey and pollen in big dark brown egg shaped pods. The central brood comb is where laval bees are housed. Essentially the brood comb is ‘split’ in half when a man made hive is opened so it can be propagated (Tim’s design). PLEASE consider buying a hive of stingless bees if you are in a warmer climate (from Sydney North upwards). Support pollination and bee conservation! :: Jem

Reference: Heard, T.A. β€˜Stingless Bees.’ Nature Australia, Spring 1996, pp. 51-55.

26 Comments

  1. Lorraine @Not Quite Nigella
    November 29, 2015

    Wow that is so interesting Jem! I think I’d go for stingless bees especially if they produce such interesting honey πŸ˜€

    Reply
  2. Jan (agluttonouswife)
    November 29, 2015

    Bees are so clever aren’t they!!! I’m down south but I do like the idea of having my own bees one day – although I am scared of the stinging variety!!! A friend near me has bees so I’m all for local!!
    Jan x

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      November 29, 2015

      They are one of the most clever and fascinating creatures in the world Jan. European honey bees can get quite cranky so it’s good to BEE wary LOL.

      Reply
  3. Function 9
    November 29, 2015

    Stingless bees are by far the best kind πŸ™‚

    Reply
  4. e / dig in hobart
    November 29, 2015

    it would be wonderful to have all those bees in your garden.
    until i’m organised enough to get my own hive, i’ll just keep the flowers blooming to attract them into my garden.

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      November 29, 2015

      That is perfect…growing flowers means supporting bees and providing them with food!

      Reply
  5. sherry from sherrys pickings
    November 29, 2015

    how bloody fantastic to have your own bees:) we used to grow lots of basil bushes and the little blue bees adored them. i am so sad we don’t see many if any bees around any more -of any variety. nor we do get snails or ladybugs. what is the world coming to? good on you for looking after the small creatures.

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      November 30, 2015

      Thanks Sherry. There are so many changes going on around us, so many negative environmental impacts. If everyone just did a little bit, it would make a collective difference. Growing flowers is a fantastic thing to do. By the way, bees adore basil flowers. I always let mine flower to keep them happy.

      Reply
  6. Sky
    December 2, 2015

    Great pictures and post Jem. We split ours today. I just love the native bees they are absolutely gorgeous. How did you harvest the honey? Was it just with a spoon?

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      December 2, 2015

      Thanks Sky πŸ™‚ Good luck with splitting the hive! You can extract the honey in a few different ways but it can be difficult and very disruptive to the nest. We just took out some samples with a spoon. For us it’s about pollination and conservation not honey production. I think stingless bees are just gorgeous as well πŸ™‚

      Reply
  7. emma
    December 3, 2015

    I love bees!! It always distresses me to read that bees are dying out in the northern hemisphere, thankfully not quite as much in our part of the world. They’re such useful, necessary, industrious insects.

    Brilliant post Jem πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ Where I live we see quite a lot of insects including bees, but not as many as I grew up with sadly. I do love seeing them though and growing plants and flowers helps a lot.

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      December 3, 2015

      They’re easy to love Emma and in reality we are dependent on them for our food supply. I believe we can make small changes, one backyard (or balcony) at a time…

      Reply
  8. Gourmet Getaways
    December 3, 2015

    I have been wanting a beehive for so long but I have been too scared! I had heard about bee’s swarming and I couldn’t imagine me trying to smoke them to collect the honey etc. Maybe I could manage the stingless varieties???
    Is it hard to manage them? Do you need help?

    Julie
    Gourmet Getaways
    xx

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      December 3, 2015

      We had some bee swarming action as well Julie. A week after the hive was split, there were two swarms fighting for the hive and the strongest colony obviously won! (#winning). I totally think you could manage a hive of stingless bees, Coffs Harbour would be perfect. They are easy. European bees are wonderful but obviously more maintenance is required (a bit cranky as well hehe) plus you need council approval to have a hive where I live πŸ™‚

      Reply
  9. Nicole - Champagne and Chips
    December 6, 2015

    Oh wow, this sounds amazing. No good in Melbourne but I would love to have a beehive, as long as the bees are stingless.

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      December 6, 2015

      You’re right, the bees would be a bit chilly in Melbourne Nicole! Stingless all the way πŸ™‚

      Reply
  10. Devon
    December 9, 2015

    These guys must scare people to death when licking their sweat. And of course you’d never know that they don’t sting! A stingless variety seems a great place to start when housing bees.

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      December 9, 2015

      Yes it does sound a bit terrifying, doesn’t it? Thank god it is a subtle process or I would be fearful to enter the backyard LOL.

      Reply
  11. Nagi@RecipeTinEats
    December 18, 2015

    Such clever little creatures, indeed!

    Reply
  12. Anna @ shenANNAgans
    December 27, 2015

    I have been trying to get in touch with the peeps to host a hive in my backyard for months, this post reminds me, I must follow up. I had no clue a stingless variety existed, that sounds a whole bunch more appetising. πŸ™‚ Great post Jem! Cant wait to get a hive of my own. πŸ™‚

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      December 27, 2015

      It is so worth it Anna, spread the pollination and conservation love! πŸ™‚

      Reply
  13. Sam Rutherford
    April 9, 2016

    That is so good that you have bees Jem. I didn’t know anything about stingless bees or how many there were. Need more people doing this to improve the environment all round.

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      April 9, 2016

      Thanks Sam, if everyone had bees and planted more flowers the world would be a better place! πŸ™‚

      Reply

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