I’ve made or bought an empty box, where can I get bees from?
Native Stingless Bees will always come in a box or log of their own. You can’t buy bees by themselves. Empty boxes sold by box makers are intended for people that already have boxes full of bees and want to multiply their colonies by splitting, budding or transferring colonies. There can be confusion with people buying empty boxes and looking for bees later, often asking on social media and then being disappointed by the answers. If you have already bought an empty box you can still use it later for multiplying your colonies in future.
Where can I buy a hive full of live bees?
ok, slow down… breathe 1, 2, 3. … I know you’re excited and just want it now… take your time and do some research first!
If you’re buying a hive with bees make sure you get a 6 to 12 month Guarantee or a Warranty that the hive will survive. When buying from an unknown seller from Facebook or Gumtree, they might be cheap but the risk could be higher if the seller is inexperienced. Sometimes hives can look healthy but can slowly die out over many months. Prices can range from $350 to $700 depending on the strength of the colony, quality of the box and level of support you receive.
What is the best style of hive box to buy?
You should consider a future plan here. I advise people to start out with a standard design. Multiply your hives over a few years and then when you have a few hives you could add a unique or fancy design box to your collection.
If you’re prepared to transfer the bees in to the new box or try Budding you could get something unique in design.
Stingless Bees aren’t fussy about what they’re home looks like, as long as the volume is big enough to support their colony and provides a safe environment for them providing protection against pests, weather and extreme temperatures.
More information on this here: https://www.nativebeehives.com/what-kind-of-box-should-i-get/
When can I split my hive?
You should only split your hive if it has a very strong population and usually only once a year. Popular information suggests once a year starting from September to March. Locations with less extreme temperatures have been known to be able to split at any time of the year. In cold areas or if you’ve had poor weather for the year it might be best to only split every two years.
Do I need to split my hive?
No, if you’re happy with not splitting it then that’s fine, there’s no need to split a hive. If a hive has a very strong population it may naturally split itself. They won’t leave your current hive box, they will just create a new colony close by
Can I move my hive?
Bees can use a GPS type system to return to their existing home. This can include using landmarks or visuals. You can move your hive a short distance like half a metre per day and the bees will still find their home. You can repeat this small movement each day to travel the hive box across the yard.
If you want to move the hive a large distance, like 50 metres or 100 metres, you could lock the bees up at night and move the hive to a new location 1 km away for three weeks and then back to the desired location. If you just move the hive 10 metres in one go the forager bees will return to the old location and will be lost. Three weeks in a different location means that the old foragers will naturally die in that time and new foragers will emerge.
You could just move your hive 20 metres away and accept that you’ll lose foragers. This could be ok with a strong colony. Some might see it as cruel.
Hive Rescue / Transfer?
The “Rescue” term is thrown around a bit. People say they’re rescuing a colony of bees but they might just be transferring it from somewhere to somewhere else and possibly at great risk of killing the colony in the process. People cause significant damage and disturbance to colonies unnecessarily.
It’s usually best to leave any wild hive where it is. Sometimes that may not be possible as the tree might be rotting away or the hive may be in a place where it could be sprayed by pest control or in a water meter box. The hive could be transferred in to a hive box to remove it from an unsafe area. If the colony is located in places like a brick wall or under a concrete slab then you wont be able to remove it without destroying the structure.
I have heard plenty of stories of sellers/rescuers transferring a colony or half a colony in to an empty box and it failing months later, so even experienced people can make a mess of this and you don’t hear of the failures.
Should I buy a rescued colony?
I’d advise against buying a recently rescued colony of stingless bees. They may look good to start when you collect the colony, but the success rate can be low. Atleast make sure there’s a 6 to 12 month guarantee if you pay money for them. Article: https://www.nativebeehives.com/top-tips-for-new-buyers-of-stingless-bee-colonies/
What’s the best box design?
So far there’s no evidence to suggest any one design or box is better than another one. Find out more here . Transferring a healthy colony from one box to another box just to have your own brand label on the box is not good practice.
The Splitting vs Eduction Debate?
This can be a never ending debate that we see on social media. Be aware that a lot of people repeat opinion with little experience on the subject. People will try one method with disappointing results and then run a campaign against the method.
Found bees in a brick wall or under a concrete slab?
Firstly you would have to identify the bees. If they’re stingless bees you wont be able to encourage them to move out. They wont leave their colony. The only way to remove the colony is to take apart the wall or concrete and physically remove the colony. You can connect an empty box and create a new colony but the old colony will still exist.
Popular species of Stingless Bees?
- Tetragonula carbonaria – Sometimes referred to as “Tc”
- Tetragonula hockingsi – “Th”
- Austroplebeia australis – “Aa”
- Tetragonula clypearis
- Tetragonula sapiens
- Austroplebeia cincta – https://www.aussiebee.com.au/stingless-bees-cincta.html
- Find out what’s natural to your area https://www.aussiebee.com.au/beesinyourarea.html
Pests that can destroy hives?
- Hive Syrphid Fly – Ceriana ornata
- Hive Phorid Fly – Dohrniphora trigonae
- Small Hive Beetle – Aethina tumida
What are they talking about?
Here’s some weird words you may hear in the Native Bee World…
- Sugar Bag – Native Bee Honey
- Propolis – Mixture of Native Bee wax and plant resin
- Cerumen – Mixture of Native Bee wax and plant resin
- Involucrum – An enveloping membrane that protects the brood
- OATH – Original Australian Trigona Hive
- Honey Super – Part of the box that is intended for honey storage
- Brood Supports – Parts of the hive box that stop the brood from dropping downward
- Brood Excluder – usually a panel that stops the brood from being built to the next frame
- Honey Super Separator Plate – same as Brood Excluder
- Budding or Soft Split – Connecting a new box to an existing hive for duplication
- Eduction – Same as Budding. Often mistakenly called Education or Induction
- Micro Colony – A small amount of brood, bees and resources, barely surviving and possibly being assisted by humans.
Websites & Publications
Australian Native Bee Association http://www.anba.org.au
Aussie Bee – http://www.aussiebee.com.au/ Heaps of info about all kinds of native bees.
Sellers list for where to buy Native Stingless Bees https://www.nativebeehives.com/links/
Australian Bee Book by Tim Heard – available on https://www.hivecraft.com.au