Keeping Bees

About our native bees - did you know?

• Australia has over 1,500 species of native bees
• Native bees can be between 2mm and 24mm long
• Our native bees can be black, yellow, red, metallic green or even black with blue bands
• Most native bees are solitary, only 10 species live in a social hive
• Social native bees are stingless (all other species can sting)
• Tetragonula carbonaria is the only species of social bee native to the North Sydney area

 

 

Why care for bees?

Bees are essential members of our ecological communities, playing a vital role in pollinating our food crops and native plants. Worldwide bee communities are under threat and bee numbers are decreasing. Thankfully, native bees are not being impacted by the diseases and pests that are affecting the Apis honeybees.

Land clearing and people mistaking bees for flies are key threats to native bee populations.

 

Life in the hive

A hive of the local Tetragonula carbonaria is home to a community of between 6,000 and 10,000 bees. The hive structure is similar to that of the Apis honeybee, including a queen, workers and drones. The workers play a key role in the health of a hive - scouting for food, collecting pollen, building the brood and guarding the hive.
Tetragonula bees are active in a temperature range of 18-40 degrees. Each day they travel up to ½ km to source food, compared to Apis honeybees that travel 5-10km.

 

Do native bees make honey? 

Solitary bees collect tiny amounts of nectar to feed their young but do not store honey in their nests. Social bees such as Tetragonula produce a small amount of honey that is stored in clusters of resin pots near the extremities of the nest.
Native bee honey, called Sugarbag, was prized by Aboriginal people who collected it from wild hives. A stingless bee hive produces up to ½kg of honey a year as opposed to the Apis honeybee hive that produces around 20-25kg per year.

 

How can you help conserve our native bees?

• Plant a garden that supports native bee species
• Keep insecticide use to a minimum (if using insecticides use them when bees are less likely to be moving around eg. the coldest part of the day or night)
• Place a hive of native bees in your backyard

 

Where can I buy a native bee hive?

Native bee hives generally cost between $400 and $500. They are available from various suppliers. Whilst North Sydney Council does not endorse any particular supplier, there is a list of suppliers for Sydney native bee hives on www.aussiebee.com.au. Ku-ring-gai Council also offers native bee hives for sale.

 

Want to learn more? 

• Read Australian Stingless Bees by John Klumpp, a valuable handbook and a great support for anyone interested in keeping native bees
• Join the discussion on the native bee forum on Yahoo www.groups.yahoo.com/group/ANBees
• Discover some great pictures of native bees by looking up websites such as Pinterest or Flickr
• Have a look at Ku-ring-gai Council’s WildThings program www.kmc.nsw.gov.au/wildthings
• Watch Ku-ring-gai’s Envirotube channel on YouTube:  www.youtube.com/user/greenstylenorth
 
North Sydney Council wishes to acknowledge Ku-ring-gai Council for the information in this fact sheet.