Native Bee Identification Australia
Australian Native Bee
One of the natural worlds most fascinating, all be it tiny animals is the Australian Native Bee. This tiny stingless bee is only approximately 4 mm in length dwarfed alongside its honey bee cousin. Known as the stingless bees to distinguish them from the other 1600 species of bees native to Australia, only 14 of those being sting-less. In the Northern Territory, they are also known as sweat bees due to their strange habit of consuming human sweat for minerals and moisture. Some species are black with white fur, whilst others are black with a tiny yellow marking on their back. All having enlarged areas on their hind legs known as corbicula used for pollen collection.
Australian Native Bees
The Sting-less Australian native bees live mostly in Australia’s tropical areas including Queensland, Northern Western Australia, and the Northern territory although they have been known to be found as far south as Bega New South Wales. Social bees in nature, with the hive consisting of a queen, workers, and drones they usually build hives in hollow tree logs, rock crevices, tree cavities or even in-between the mortar of buildings. The inner structure of the hive is quite intricate and unique, made out of propolis (tree resin) and bees wax.
They are also becoming popular green garden companions due to their excellent pollination skills, having no stingers and concerned citizens wanting to make a difference and offer a new home to a misplaced Australian animal. Although when splitting one hive into two care needs to be taken and the appropriate distance given to the new and old hives don’t war over territory. Which is the case with T. cabonaria, the warring sides cling to each other in the air, fall to the ground, then fight to the death. Normally losing thousands of bees in this territory war.
On the commercial side, they have discovered that having native bees in your orchard can not only increase the overall yield, but also the size of the individual fruit. In macadamia farms, the difference per nut was 10 %. Producing small amounts of thin honey or bush honey these tiny bees produce approximately 1 litre per year compared to their honey bee cousins that produce approximately 75 litres per year. The honey does seem to vary in quality depending on what the bees have been using as a food source, it has generally been described as sweet but tangy.
Known as sugar bag bees to the Indigenous Australians the honey was extracted and eaten as bush tucker. The hive wax was collected used for didgeridoo mouthpieces and also used for the sealing of tools and ceremonial items. As well as its medicinal qualities being an antibacterial and general wellness food. The spiritual meaning behind an animal that fights to the death is a commitment, indomitable spirit and a never give in attitude. The bee represents working together for a common cause, whether it be within your own family or for humanity worldwide. Working together for the greatest good is still humanities biggest lesson. We can all learn a thing or two from the humble bee. © Ange Marxsen