Tye and Neal
From The little black bee
Tye and Neal from Little Black Bee are stingless bee keepers who are uniquely first nations peoples to Australia. I sat down with them and asked first up what Little Black Bee is about?
Here is their answer…
Tye happily met me at the gate and we walked into Neal’s yard to meet him. I had first met Tye and Neal at the native bee club held in Brisbane. Both their faces stood out to me as excited bee fanatics. I invited them over to chat about what Little Black Bee was about. Hearing their stories made me want to know more.
Walking around Neal’s yard, you can see the beautifully hand-made hardwood hives dotted around the garden. Log hives and various styles of rain protection for each hive tells of someone who cares a lot for bees. Neal took me around to show me the various stages hives were at in their development. All the bees looked to be very happy and a lot of them were busily collecting cadaghi seeds.
Bees and Resins
I asked Tye to talk about some of the unique things that Little Black Bee does with their stingless bee keeping. He showed me a little about what they have been doing with resins. This was a novel idea because it’s natural and often times bee keepers don’t look for ways to give the bees naturally occurring resources.
Later that day I was keen to watch Tye and Neal in the bush finding new hives and bush foods. I was surprised that Tye found a hive by smell and sound alone. I learned some new trees and uses for them. Both Tye and Neal found numerous stingless bee hives. Neal has talked of traditional song and dance relating to the bee in Australia that has been passed down before settlement.
Before I left I had some questions for Little Black Bee
How did you become interested in stingless bees?
Tye: When I was 11 I saw them on a family camp. Later I got a bee book and it reignited my interest in honey bees, but honey bees cannot be kept around people, so native bees became an attraction.
Neal: I was involved with a job where they were cutting a tree at Newfarm. They were going to chip a hive and I said “you cant do that!” I took it home and hung it in a tree and started watching them.
Can you think of a memory or story that stands out with your bee keeping?
Tye: I was working with a honey bee company and the bosses son asked (While eating a tin of tuna) “Have you ever been stung in the mouth? Or seen someone that has? At that very moment a angry honey bee from one of the hives flew into his mouth and stung him. He ended up feeling like death and I had to drive him 3 hours away to get help. Its amazing how nature always provides answers.
Neal: Firstly “I am a bee minder”. We are out bush, I’m doing the washing up in the morning. The stingless bees came into camp and were drinking water from the dishes that had been rinsed. I went for a swim in the dam and on my way out I noticed a honey bee, a stingless bee, a wasp and other insects all drinking together from the edge of the dam.
What type of stingless bee is your favorite and why?
Tye: I like the carbonaria for the honey they make and the hockingsi for their robustness. I like the Austroplebeia for their elusive behavior. I like something from each of the ones I have seen.
Neal: I think Tetragonula carbonaria because of their brood structure and they bite me less when I do a rescue.
What things do you like about your box design and what inspirations did you have?
Tye: Everything! We asked ourselves, “what is in nature?” We watched the bees in the bush and what sort of trees they build in and brought that across into our design. Hardwood with thick walls, good ventilation and a natural look.
Neal: The thermal properties of timber used and the thickness of the walls. The walls on the logs of rescued hives have been around the same thickness as what we are using and have been inspiration.
Why do you believe bees are important?
Tye: Everyone knows the Einstein quote about bees, but what I believe he was talking about was what happens when a key species is absent from the symbiosis. It has a knock on effect. Bees hold a relationship with other things and other things hold a relationship with bees.
Neal: Because they have an enormous connection within the circle of life.
Finally what is your one piece of life advice you would share with the world?
Tye: Love the little things. We like to think we are big in the world but in the universe we are quite small. But we are quite deserving as well.
Neal: Each one of us finding our place in the circle.
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