This has bee a long time dream of mine to use stingless bees for pollination, but when I first started asking people about this subject there was much talk of pesticides. With the previous world crisis with colony collapse with honey bees, I knew I had to go to an organic farm. I had to find a place where people cared about their practices. Just so happens I knew someone.
Below is the video that I filmed over a couple of years about what I did to set up the farm in Northern Queensland, Australia.
Notes on Stingless Bee Farming
So when we think of pollination we know from Tom Carter that cross pollination between trees can be a problem. The pollen from one flower might affect the fruiting of another tree if the bee travels between trees. What we have seen so far at the farm is having the multiple species of bee means each bee chooses the tree it loves. There has been an increase, not a decrease, on all fruit! Cool huh!?
While the fruiting aspect has been fantastic the health of the hives has faced its own problems.
Black soldier fly in particular feeds on breaking down fruit matter. This means there is a high volume or concentration of these on the farm. The fly itself lays its eggs in the joins of the hive. The emerging young make their way into the hive and eat honey, pollen and the wax! The grub then hatches leaving the husk of its emergence, and often can’t escape because of the small stingless bee entrance. In my belief this makes this pest exclusively a hive problem. I have never seen them in a wild hive or log that has been broken open. Lean more about hive pests here.
If you enter into stingless bee pollination you must be prepared for very damaging losses until you know what you’re doing. I didn’t, in this case, know what I am doing. All joins on my hives should have bee closed or taped shut. I don’t face this pest at home and that’s why I didn’t think of this until it was too late.
The Organisation of Stingless Bees on a Farm
On the forty acres of farm land that has active trees, the racks of bees are spaced out evenly. There are also individual hives dotted around the farm on mounted on brackets. On the racks, the bee hives face opposite directions. This is to slow the drift of bees leaving hives and entering other hives. The individual hives were seen to be more healthy and full. This is because, in a rack formation, the hives when affected by pests draw more pests to the area on the wind.
I will try to do an update with this bee farm in future. The above mentioned changes – taping the joins and separating the hives – should have a really positive impact on the colonies. I’m looking forward to seeing how the bees’ pollination impacts fruit production when they are not wasting so much of their time and energy fighting off pests. I am really excited about this because it’s unique in that it’s a first for 6 species of bee in the one place on 74 varieties of fruit tree. Stay tuned to find out how this next phase turns out.
Maybe you have a farm that needs pollination? Steve Maginnity does this full time. Check out his page below.