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A Beginners Guide to Native Stingless Bees

Australian native stingless bee’s can be a great addition to your farm, garden or even balcony. For the large part they are fairly self sufficient and go about their own business. It is important to understand a few basics about the bees to ensure you provide them with the best environment and chance to thrive.

First off, there are different species of “social” (this means that they have a hive of many bees functioning together as an organism) stingless bees in Australia. For the northern rivers, we mainly have Tetragonula Carbonaria TC and Tetragonula Hockingsi TH. However, there are some other species that will occupy the region as well. We sell TC hives and they tend to thrive in our northern rivers region.

How to mount or options for stands


There are many options for mounting or attaching your hive to stands. You can purchase premade native bee hive stands from different manufacturers or you can make your own. 
An easy way is to use an upside down large plant pot big enough to put the hive on top. Star pickets are another good way to mount hives using a piece of PVC pipe and a few screws to hold in place. 


Maintainence


Keeping the box and roof clean is important to ensure there are no pests (spiders, geckos etc,) living on the hive or in the roof. This can be as easy as a wipe down with a cloth or using a brush to clean out the roof.

We recommend repainting the box every few years to keep the wood from being exposed to the elements. Paint the outside of the hive at night in winter if possible. This is because the bees aren’t active at night and less active in general during winter. Don’t paint within 5cm of the entrance or any other ventilation holes.

Moving Your Hive


Hives can be moved two ways. If over a small distance you can move the hive 30-50cm a day. The alternative is is you move the hive to an alternate residence further that a 1km away for three weeks. Then you can reposition in your yard after that time in a new location. To move to a new residence wait till evening when all the bees have returned and cover the entrances with mesh then take to new address.

Fighting Swarms


There are a number of different swarms that can happen to a hive. Fighting swarms are the ones to be more concerned about. This is when another colony tries to take over your hive. There will be hundreds of bees flying around the outside of the hive and they lock together and wrestle on the ground. There is many bees lost in these swarms. There is ways to redirect these swarms but you need a spare box and a bit of help. If you don’t have a spare box, you have two options. You can move your hive to a friends place for a few weeks and wait for things to settle down. Or you can let the fighting play out. There is a chance your hive will become stronger as a result of the fighting. There is also a chance it can weaken your hive or possibly cause it to fail. 

Other predators of native bees


There are three main predators of native bees. Phorid Flys, syrphid flies and small hive beetle. Each of these attempts to infiltrate the colonies of bees through various techniques. There is a mountain of information available online about these three pests, how to minimise the chance of infestation and help hives that have been attacked.

Insecticides and pesticides


These chemicals can have a nasty effect on your hive. If you are getting your house sprayed it is best to close and remove your hive for a few days then bring back to where they were. Weed sprays can be harmful if the bees forage on a flower from a weed that has been sprayed. Insecticides and pesticides can kill a whole hive so it is important to manage the risks. Ie. if your neighbour sprays along the fence do not position the hive near that fence.

Guarantee


We can replace hives that do not survive a 6 months if they have been looked after correctly. This means that they can be replaced if the hive dies from not having a queen. We cannot replace hives that have suffered heat stress from being positioned in the sun after 10am, or experienced temperatures over 40*C, or sprayed with insecticides or pesticides. Hives that have been opened, split or honey harvested cannot be guaranteed. If your hive happens to have issues and needs to be replaced, the failed hive needs to be returned to Terranora. We can usually tell why hives have failed by checking the remains inside the box. We will usually be able to tell if a hive has suffered heat stress, been opened or been invaded by pests.

We really enjoy helping others begin their journey as a beekeeper. Please ask any questions necessary when purchasing and we are always available to answer questions after you have purchased a hive. If you are concerned for any reason, It is best to get help sooner rather than later to resolve any issues.

Bees only come out of the hive when the air temperature is above 18*c. This means that they sometimes are only foraging for a few hours a day in winter. You can also invest in a polystyrene cover for the whole hive if your worried about the temperature exposure. These covers can reduce the heat impact dramatically. They also stop the hive from heating up as quickly in the morning and in winter so worth considering all the options for roof material and ways to maximise sun exposure while avoiding overheating. 

Positioning your hive

Providing a sheltered position for your hive is important. It is best to make sure your hive is out of direct sun by around 11am. Full sun exposure all day can overheat a hive. Another factor is placing the hive some place that you can view the hive to enjoy seeing the activity that comes from having a bee hive.