Keeping native bees at home
Keeping native stingless at home is easy, and like most pets, you need to do a small amount of preparation before they arrive.
Where can I get a hive of native bees?
There are a number of good suppliers of hives in Brisbane and you can even find them on Gumtree. However, I would highly reccomend you avoid Gumtree sellers for your first hive and purchase from a reputable seller.
A reputable seller should offer you a replacement warranty on your hive if should it fail. All queens will die eventually, and sometimes a hive may not succeed to create a suitable replacement and will fall into decline.
My experience is that many, but not all, sellers on Gumtree are selling weak hives or hives that are not well established. I know somebody who purchased a hive full of bees from a Gumtree seller, with no queen, no brood and no chance of surviving. An expensive lesson.
Three local sellers I would highly reccommend are:
- Tim Heard from Sugarbag Bees
- Sarah Hamilton from Bee Yourself
- Dean Bryant from Native Bee Rescue & Education Sunshine Coast
Once you have your hive, even if you didn't buy it from me, I am more than happy to help you out anytime you need.
Choosing a suitable spot in your garden for your hive
Before you buy your hive, you should pick a spot in your garden that gets a little sun in the morning to warm them up and then shady from around 10.00am onwards. Near or under a tree works well. The most important factor to consider is heat. Native stingless bees will die when the internal hive temperature exceeds 42 degrees, so choose a location where the hive is in full shade during summer.
The hive is best kept up off the ground so that the bees have some airspace to take off and also to keep the hive box off the damp ground.
It's important to choose your location well as it can be difficult, yet not impossible, to move the hive once they are located.
What if I need to move the hive?
If you need to move the hive, you have a couple of options:
- If you need to move the hive a short distance, you can move the hive in small steps of less than a metre per day to its new location.
- If moving the hive in small steps isn't suitable, you should move the hive more than one kilometre away for a few weeks, then move it back to its new location. It's best to do this at night when all the bees are inside and when the bees come out of the hive the follwing morning, they will learn the new location.
This is known as the 1m or 1km rule.
Bees remember where the hive is located so that they can get back there after foraging. This is why, if you move the hive to another part of your yard without following the '1m or 1km' rule, the bees may return from foraging to the old location and be unable to find the hive.
Will my bees ever leave the hive?
No, unlike honey bees, native bees will never leave a hive once they are established. Once mated, a native bee queen cannot fly and the hive will never abandon her. Also, they will never 'outgrow' their hive box, so you don't need to split your hive or harvest the honey if you don't want to.
I made a bee hive, how do I encourage bees to move in?
Sadly, it is highly unlikely that Native bees will move into a box at will. Your best bet is to purchase a hive box, complete with bees. Later, when your hive is strong, you can propogate a new hive into your box.