When Greg North, Liaison officer for the Northside Beekeepers, first became interested in a new hobby, he was surprised to find little information for those new to keeping bees. However, that changed when he found the associations of Beekeepers, a group that’s been supporting apiarists and others interested in the management of European Honey bees and Native Australian (Stingless) bees, for over 40 years.
Why are Bees important?
Bees are the major pollinators of food crops.
A Honeybee society is highly regulated and democratic.
Not only are bee numbers adjusted according to the varying needs of the hive, but bee swarms also will not move to a new location until all bees are in agreement, communicating with each other through their waggle dance!
A bee democracy!
Every bee has its own role in the colony and works constantly to perform its duty. Although there are some that take it easy. Drones are like the playboys of the bee world, sitting around in the Drone Zone, perhaps reading playboy magazines, waiting for the Queen to fly past. Then it is time for them to do some work.
Bees and Climate Change
Bee societies may be highly regulated but one thing the bees can’t control it seems is the weather and that can dramatically affect food sources and ultimately, their survival.
The presence of flowers doesn’t always mean there’s plenty of food available for bees. A drop in honey yield may correlate with a lower than usual rainfall. In the drought of 2020, the flowers on the Forest Red and Blue Gums, (Eucalyptus tereticornis), were completely bereft of active bees or nectar-feeding birds.
The extended dry spell meant the trees only produced, ‘dry flowers,’ ones that are devoid of nectar, as an adaptive response to drought. A dry spring might also mean trees suppress flowering altogether. Without nectar, bees are without food just at a time when their hives are looking to swarm and reproduce. And no nectar means no honey.
Native Australian bees look for all the world like insects and there are thousands of species. Unlike honey bees, they do not swarm and may be solitary.
How We Can Help the Bees
Homeowners can help the bees by incorporating bee-friendly plants in their gardens, particularly ones that flower in the drier months of September- December. Fruit trees, flowering shrubs including Grevillea, Callistemon, (bottlebrush), and herbaceous plants like Rosemary, Sage, Cosmos, and Marigolds are excellent food sources for bees.
Fun Facts about Bees
- Bees swarm in spring with scout bees fly up to 70 sq. km in search of a new location
- Each female worker bee produces 1/8 teaspoon of honey in its life.
- A Queen Bee can lay up to 2,000 in a single day.
- A bee colony will not move until all the bees are happy with the chosen new location.
- Bees will replace an under-performing Queen Bee by swarming around her in a ball, raising her body temperature which kills her.
- Worker bees hatch from fertilized eggs and unfertilized eggs will turn into drones.
- Bees communicate with each other via a “waggle dance.”
- Australian beeswax is highly sought after for its purity and is largely exported for the manufacture of cosmetic products such as moisturizers and lip balms.
- Bees do drink water – they return water to the hive for the others to drink.
- The brood or nursery area of the beehive is kept at 35 – 37 degrees C to keep the bees alive
- Australia has up to 16,000 varieties of Native bees – some are easily mistaken for bugs.
- Native (stingless) bees are more adaptable to drought than European bees but the hives do not reproduce as fast nor do they produce the same quantity of honey.
- Council regulates the keeping of Honeybees on properties but Native bees are unrestricted.