Sunday, 13 November 2011

How to: keep native bees

We've just installed our first hive of native bees - 2000-odd social Trigona carbonaria and their queen in a purpose-made wood and plastic hive. We're really excited to see them buzzing round the garden exploring their new home!

The beehive installed - facing north-east with shade from
the western sun. What could be simpler!
In the Illawarra, the hive should face east or north-east, and be shelted from the hot afternoon sun. It should allow access to flowers within a 500m radius, and also to a source of water such as a pond.

That's about it for the how. But for many people, there's a question that needs to be answered before you even bother with the how, and that's 'Why would I keep native bees?' 

Luckily, if you look into it, there are just so many reasons!
  • Native bees are native - with over 1500 species of native bees, ten of them stingless - every part of Australia has several indigenous species to choose from.
  • Native bees are perfect for pollinating native plants! Being smaller than European bees, they can pollinate smaller flowers, such as epacris, without damaging them.
  • Native bees are not vulnerable to the same diseases as European bees. European bees are prey to the varroa mite, and in Europe and the Americas have been hit by a mysterious 'colony collapse disorder'. If this happened here in Australia, having a large stock of native bees would allow us to keep on pollinating food plant species. 
I would add that native bees are cute, but that's probably in the eye of the beholder. And also, I haven't been able to take any good photos yet - hopefully soon!
A bad photo of bees - you can just make
them out on the lower half of the hive
 Illawarra local plants that could be grown in a bee-friendly garden include geebungs (Persoonia species); native pea plants (e.g. Indigofera australis, Pultenaea aristata, or Dillwynnia or Hovea species); heath species like Epacris and Leocopogons; tea-trees (Leptospermum species) and water gums (e.g. Tristaniopsis laurina).

 For more information, check out these sites:

6 comments:

  1. Hi there,
    Love your setup. Just wondering how the bees are going in the Illawarra climate. Also, have you expanded? If you have any splitting planed I am keen to get my own set up going. Please let me know

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi there,
    Love your setup. Just wondering how the bees are going in the Illawarra climate. Also, have you expanded? If you have any splitting planed I am keen to get my own set up going. Please let me know

    ReplyDelete
  3. Would love to set up a native bee hive. But the cost is just ridiculous. I can't justify $500- just to get started.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Would love to set up a native bee hive. But the cost is just ridiculous. I can't justify $500- just to get started.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Would love to set up a native bee hive. But the cost is just ridiculous. I can't justify $500- just to get started.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Would love to set up a native bee hive. But the cost is just ridiculous. I can't justify $500- just to get started.

    ReplyDelete