Guest post by Dean Haley
I thought I might write a few words about A.australis to complete the introduction to our little bee family.
In 2010 Dr Anne Dollin coordinated a stingless beekeepers survey finding that australis were 23% of the stingless bees being kept, and the number of australis kept had doubled since a similar survey in 1999. These are pretty cool statistics and points to the growing interest in these little bees.
I just love ’em. Recently Nick & I bought some australis from Russell Zable. I had some in a little log hive before this but I think there was no queen and they died. Very happy to get replacement bees. I put a clear plastic film over the top of Russell’s box and I now have an observation hive. I love how they leave the observation panel free of resin, allowing you to see easily into the workings of the hive. I think in the future this will be important and enterprising people will set up neat little boxes with see-through walls. They will be more popular pets than sea monkeys or ant farms.
The Austroplebeia genus is a uniquely Australian bee, found only here and in Papua New Guinea. It’s been here long enough to have uniquely Australian attitudes to work.
Australis’s defining characteristic is its ability to live through the boom and bust of the Australian bush. For australis, this means conserving energy. When there is a drought and no flowers they don’t raise much brood. They will happily reduce the size of the colony even down to an unbelievable 50 or so bees. The really amazing thing is that when the boom times come again these colonies can recover!
Australis are a widespread bee. They are found across most of Queensland, and much of NSW and NT. See here for a neat map. The way these bees are able to tolerate extreme conditions and spread themselves out along the east of Australia makes them a very successful species.
I am interested in how far south australis bees used to be found in NSW. If anyone has stories they’d like to share, please leave a comment or send me an email.