Image credit: EcoFilms Australia
With the epic fight to stop Colony Collapse Disorder and save our honeybees still continuing, there's been a renewed interest in bee genetics. In particular, many beekeepers and gardeners are wondering whether hardier, less selectively-bred native bees may hold some clues for creating more resilient hives. Beekeepers have been looking into the aggressive native black honeybee in the UK, meanwhile in Australia there is a burgeoning sub-culture of beekeepers working with native Australian bees. They may be small, and they produce less honey, but they pollinate many plants that other bees cannot reach—and to top it all off they are stingless too!Native Australian Stingless Bees Are Gentle and Harmless
As this short interview with permaculture practitioner Anne Wensley shows, the native bees are gentle, non-aggressive and unarmed. In fact, Wensley has kept her hive by her front door for decades with zero problems, and clearly enjoys watching the little creatures come in and out. (They build themselves an anti-septic "doorstep" to clean their feet as they enter the hive.)
According to an article by Frank Gapinski over at the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia, there are reported to be over 1600 varieties of native bee in Australia, but only 14 are stingless. Due to deforestation and land clearance, the native bees are now scarce in many areas through a lack of suitable habitat. (They like to create their hives in hollow logs.)
Native Bees Make Great Pollinators
The native bees do produce honey, but on a much smaller scale than domesticated honeybees, and the honey is said to be of a more variable quality. But where they really come into their own is in pollinating fruit and nut trees, including many native species such as macadamias and mangos.