T.carbonaria and T.hockingsi are closely related species. It is possible to visually distinguish between these two species of bee which makes them ideal for this type of study. The carbonaria bee is slightly smaller than the hockingsi and has a very even spiral broodcomb. Hockingsi bees are slightly larger, have a different body posture, and the brood is arranged as a semi-comb.
The first hockingsi box had been an eduction box on a log colony owned by Nick. The mother log colony placed many resources into the box and hockingsi brood was observed. However, some weeks later when the box was due for removal to a new location it was observed to be broodless and presumably queenless. Disks of carbonaria brood with queen cells were added to the box and the box was placed in its new location. Carbonaria callows were soon observed in the box and in due course the carbonaria queen mated and started laying. A carbonaria brood spiral was observed.
I decided this was a good trick so I would do it again with more pictures. I used a hockingsi colony in a water meter box. I removed all the brood and queen to a wooden box and placed carbonaria brood with queen cell in the water meter box. This has successfully converted into a carbonaria colony as well.
One interesting observation was the hockingsi / carbonaria worker interactions when there were both species present in the box. When a carbonaria worker landed near the entrance the hockingsi guard bees would dash out and carefully inspect them. They must have smelled ok as they were then allowed to enter the hive.
These studies provide further opportunities for the care and propagation of stingless bees. Future work will include the reverse situation where a carbonaria colony is converted into hockingsi. There is also the possibility of using hockingsi worker bees and carbonaria brood in the increasingly popular ‘Brazilian Propagation’ technique.