Rescuing Native Stingless Bee Hives

Have you ever seen small black insects quietly visiting your flowers and shrubs? If so, maybe you are lucky to have a wild hive on your property already! They are Australian native bees, of which the most popular has to be the small social stingless bees. In the wild, these species mostly inhabit tree hollows and produce small amounts of medicinal honey each year. Like the honeybees we know which are native in Europe, the native stingless bees are invaluable as natural pollinators for the diverse range of plant species of Australia. Commercially, they are used to pollinate crops such as macadamias, avocados and lychees.

van Veen Organics strives to protect our beautiful local wildlife, even the smallest ones! Habitat loss is currently the number one cause for the wild decline of these bees. We travel to rescue hives that in trees that are scheduled to be cut down and thus in danger of being destroyed. The hive then needs to be checked and monitored, to make sure the colony is healthy and progressing well. Once the hives are strong, we take and rehome them away from danger.

Through a network of arborist, council workers, farmers and developers who are paid a spotting fee to look out for threatened nests, we identify, locate, and rescue threatened hives. All this takes knowledge, time and resources to complete. It doesn’t come cheap unfortunately, but through education and rehoming we are able to provide this valuable service to protect these stingless bees hives from otherwise certain death.

The retail price of our native beehives is a reflection of the resources involved in the care, education, and protection of this awesome native species. A rescue generally, but not always, involves a spotter’s fee, travelling costs, rescue time and equipment, monitoring and recovery time, and finally, rehoming. The rescue itself takes twelve to fourteen hours and the recovery can take many months. Sixty percent of our retail prices covers this process, including equipment (beehives, boxes, etc). Another twenty percent covers the education and time taken to find new loving homes where they will be protected. As a small local business, this gives us an average hourly rate of $8 per hour of labour for each hive rescued. Not the most profitable exercise but one well worth it and definitely a labour of love.

If more people were aware of the problems that our native stingless bees faced and actively helped to protect these bees, they would no longer be at risk of becoming extinct in the wild. Until then, part of our mission is to help this keystone species as much as we can. This goal is going to take time, but can be achieved through education and word of mouth. Together we can help our native bees, please share your knowledge of our native bee species with your friends, family and co-workers so more people are bee aware!

As well as running workshops to showcase the many benefits of these native bees, van Veen Organics also organise crop pollination services for large commercial growers. We propagate our own hives on site, and work with other native stingless bee keepers in showing them how to propagate new hives from old ones. We also install new hives at educational centres locally, mostly at kindergartens.

By Josh van Veen and Theo Darmawan

Images by Luisa Johnson