Did you know that Thursday, 20 May was World Bee Day?
We rely on these little beauties to maintain food security, biodiversity and support our ecosystems.
Many would know how important bees are to our livelihood, as they are fabulous pollinators! Nearly two-thirds of Australia’s agricultural production benefits from bee pollination.
Due to destruction of their natural habitat, intensive farming practices, and pests and diseases, bee populations are under threat.
Globally, there are over 20,000 species of bee that exist. Australia is home to around 17,000 species of native bee.
Some plant species can only be pollinated by a particular species of bee. In the absence of pollination, the plant species cannot reproduce so if that bee species dies, so too will the plant.
Maintaining plant diversity supports other essential ecosystem services including helping to regulate climate, purify air and water, build soil and recycle nutrients.
Australia has eleven species of Stingless Bees. They are quite small in comparison with the common European bees that we see. These bees are black and 3 – 5mm. Their nests are quite different to what we know as a traditional hive. They still have a queen, males, and hundreds or even thousands of worker bees. They can be found nesting inside hollow trees but in northern areas they also nest in urban situations such as inside wall cavities or underneath concrete footpaths.
The Stingless Bees are the only native bees currently available for sale in Australia. Beekeepers transfer the nests into small hive boxes and can propagate the nests by splitting. These hives can be used for honey production and crop pollination.
The climate of QLD and the NT is ideal for Stingless Bees because they are tropical species. They also thrive in northern NSW and on the NSW Mid North Coast.
I remember being shocked to see a Bumble Bee during a trip to Tasmania a few years ago. I couldn’t believe their size and striking beauty. They were actually accidently introduced into Tasmania in 1992 and are now widespread….but…they have not reached Mainland Australia.
We have other bees including Yellow and Black Carpenter Bees; Green Carpenter Bees; Reed Bees; Blue Banded Bees; Teddy Bear Bees; Leafcutter Bees; Resin Bees; Homalictus Bees; and Masked Bees.
There is still so much more to learn about bees! I have placed links on our website to some resources for further reading.