Feburary 2018 Speaker: Propolis in the bee hive: the bees' very own medicine, by Dr Sara Leonhardt.

BNBeeC kicks off 2018 with an international top-level presenter, Dr Sara Leonhardt from the University of Würzburg, Germany

Besides nectar and pollen, honeybees and stingless bees also collect resin, a sticky substance that is produced by plants and has antimicrobial and repellent properties. Because of its antibiotic properties, people have used the mixture of various resins and wax produced by honeybees (propolis) for centuries in traditional folk medicine. Research has thus focused on the biological activity of propolis and its benefits for humans, whereas little to nothing is known about the importance of resins for the bees themselves. Recent studies show that resin deters various bee parasites and pathogens and supports the bees' immune system. A lack of resin sources or resin diversity and breeding of “resin-free” honeybees may thus be one reason for the global demise of honeybees. I will provide an overview on the little information we have on the use and the importance of resin/propolis in honeybees and stingless bees. I would be delighted to start a discussion on how we could better understand and make use of the "bees' very own medicine".

Bio, Dr Sara Leonhardt
Sara was born and educated in Germany. She obtained her PhD titled Tropical Biology and Chemical Ecology at the University of Würzburg, thesis title: “Resin collection and use in tropical stingless bees” which was based on field work in Borneo. Since 2013, she is Group leader at the Department of Animal Ecology and Tropical Biology at the University of Würzburg, and Adjunct Lecturer at the University of the Sunshine Coast. During 2010-2011 she was a postdoctoral fellow on a research project on stingless bees in Australia. Her research has been published in 24 peer-reviewed journals (37 publications), public blogs and one book chapter and has been presented at more than 23 congresses. Her research addresses evolutionary, behavioral/sensory and ecological aspects of resource exploitation by social bees (i.e. honeybees, bumblebees and stingless bees) in both temperate and tropical regions. She is particularly interested in the functional role of biodiversity, particularly resource and chemical diversity, in plant-bee interactions. One of my major research fields investigates the role of resin/propolis for social bee health.

April 2018 Speaker: The commercial out look and opportunities of Australian Stingless Bee products - By Ann Ross.

In 2011 Ann and Jeff Ross discovered a colony of honey bees had made a home in the wall of their mechanical workshop in Beerburrum. Many people might have followed the advice of friends and called in the pest control, but coming from a family of apiarists, Jeff coaxed the bees into a box and before long both Ann and Jeff had become weekend ‘beekeepers’.

Jeff holds a Cert III in Beekeeping and Ann is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and in 2015 completed a Bachelor of Business (Commerce Accounting) at the University of the Sunshine Coast. Ann has a keen interest in sustainable agriculture and believes that the stingless native bee has an important role to play in the future of Australian horticulture.


Hive Haven is building a commercial future for the Australian stingless bee. Native bees are critical to the future of food production in Australia. The European Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) is currently the key to crop pollination but their numbers are in rapid decline.

In September 2017, Hive Haven received Ignite Round 2 funding from Advance Queensland to

  1. Manufacture the Hive Haven V9 stingless native bee hive

  2. Commercialise stingless native bee honey

  3. Agri-business scale-ability for native bee farming

May 2018 Speaker - Dr Giorgio Venturieri
Georgio is a native bee expert from Brazil. Giorgio worked for more than 25 years on the stingless bees of that country. He was employed by EMBRAPA, a public Brazilian Agricultural research institution.

Giorgio’s lived and worked in the city of Belem in the mouth of Amazon River, where a great diversity of stingless bees occurs.

He studied the pollination biology of tropical crops and the domestication of native stingless bees; to be used for honey production or pollination services. He also worked on spreading new stingless beekeeping practices to local farmers and indigenous people, preparing technical publications and promoting the new practices giving talks and courses.

Anyone who has seen Giorgio’s photos knows that he has advanced skills in macro photography and computing drawings.

From April 2013 to March 2014, Giorgio did a sabbatical here in Brisbane studying stingless beekeeping and crop pollination with Tim Heard at CSIRO.

Wonderful news is that Giorgio is now living in Brisbane, developing a business with stingless bees. Giorgio his wife Regina, a structural engineer and two daughters, now has permanent residency so their long campaign to migrate to Australia is going well.

September 2017 SPEAKERS: The Dean Haley and Nick Powell native bee variety show! 

Dean and Nick started with a list of places that they have found useful to get native bee information from.

  • Yahoo chat group - yes its decades old and not used so much anymore but is full of information.
  • Australian native bees .com
  • Aussie bee .com
  • Bob the Bee man
  • John Klumpps book - Australian Stingless bees
  • Tim Heards Website - SugarBag Bees
  • Megan Holcrofts website

There was a great discussion on hive evolution and they have observed the bees like small hive dimensions.
Smaller boxes fill faster. They feel its better for security and humidity. Also makes a rounder brood.
Keep the outer hive dimensions and make the box thicker to make the inner capacity smaller or the sides lower.
They note a natural log hive brood is about 150-170mm
Possum boxes are no good for native bee hives.
Both went to a circular plywood brood guide quite quickly - great for the carbonarii brood especially.
After a heat wave they moved to Western Red Cedar as its light and insulates well with out rotting.
They use untreated cedar and then protect it with marine varnish or furniture polish. Recoating doesn't seem to affect the bees as the volatiles are low.
To get more honey, make the entrance to the honey super on the opposite side to the hive entrance instead of the traditional super entrances on both ends.
Bees put honey at the top of the hive until they run out of room and then they start on the bottom and sides.
To get more honey, add another super to the top of the hive and just keep going!
They prefer smaller spaces to store honey - moved to half height honey boxes.
Carbs are split horizontally to get brood at all stages and a variety of nurse, worker and guard bees in a split.
Hocks and most other bees are split vertically.
Hocks like bigger boxes with more room around the brood, Try to tear rather than cut the hocks brood with the use of a set of slump mesh on both halves of the split.

If you can guide the brood with a brood circle guide you can make it easier to split. They have got bees to build brood through a 50mm gap.
If the brood area is compressed, they start building at the bottom. If the box is large they start building away from the entrance and that is often closer to the top not allowing for a even split of the brood.

They do some great interviews which they put on their website AustralianNativeBee.com
 To see the interviews click on this link
Brood needs humidity control so holes are drilled in the back and/or bottom of the hive. If the hole is only a "bee space" they wont resin it up. If they are blocking the holes, they might be too big.
They are recommending the metal lids made from roofing iron to protect hives from the weather along with the tropical lid.

Australis hives - in the wild 6cm x 1 meter!
Swarms. They believe this a fighting behaviour. Three options. Leave em to fight, may the stronger bees win. Lock up the weak hive until the invaders leave. pack up the weak hive and move it.

A fighting swarm could be a chance to try a "bait" hive. 
Put a piece of paper of the outside of the hive being attacked to get the scent markers of the attackers. Yellow drops left around the entrance are visual and have scent.  Remove the hive under attack. Put a brand new hive in exact same place with the scented scented paper on it. Put a piece of brood the size of a few 50c piece inside. Queen is often in the fighting swarm of hocks and carbs. Sometimes the attackers will go in and take over - Voila - free full bee hive! 

Unlike honey bees, native bee swarm capturing is very hit and miss...

Old theory is that hives needed to be 10m away from each other or they would swarm and fight. Nick and Dean keep hives close together (20cm) in a line and swap them about, They did some testing and believe the 40% of the bees in any of these hives were not born there.
Swapping the hives around is good Phlorid fly control too. Less attacks as the group of hives works as a team against pests.
Need to be the same species though. Can stack in a line or vertically in two stacks on top of each other. Must swap vertical stacks as inner hives get weaker in this system.

Brood transfers. Queen cells are larger and usually on the side of the brood.
When you put new brood into a hive, make sure you have put in a Queen cell too. 
The perfect brood tool is a butter knife with the tip bent to 90 degrees. Weak colonies benefit from brood transfers. Do it at night and add at least 700 - 1000 cells.
Cross breed brood transfers is possible - will they breed across species - they aren't sure yet!

Social domesticated Australian native bee types.

Tetrogonula: Hockinsii and Carbonarii
Hocks are messy, bigger and stroppier - good defenders of a sweeter honey. North Qld tropical bee.
Carbs have a spiral nest, are smaller, much more docile and make a more mellow honey. Sub tropical bee found as far south as mid NSW

Australis: Inland desert bee.
Gentle non nipping. Very small. Can survive with a hive of 300 bees or less.Happy to wait for resources to appear.
Will fly straight in the hole without landing.

Sapiens: FNQ bee.
Brood - a bit here, a bit there. Vinegar honey in a very messy brood. Very aggressive - great defenders. Use a tube entrance. Very efficient fewer workers.

Cinta. FNQ bee half the size of carbs. very fast. Like tiny hollows with thick walls - gold ball size!

Questions from the Floor.

Callow to worker?
About two weeks. Will move through jobs, worker, nurse, guard, forager.

Box heat - darker boxes hotter by 2-4 degrees.
Ceder boxes have great insulation but still need a vent hole
Paint the tops white in brassy. Can leave rest natural.

Why the metal lid?
Bigger than box - shades, removable depending on season.

What to do in 40 defrees plus heat?
vent holes, shade, have water available to them.


November 2017 Speaker: Tim Heard talked about his trip to Malaysia, the local stingless bees are known as Kelulut.

Tim was attending a stingless bee conference in Malaysia where there was honey, propolis and pollen products on display along with tools for hives and keepers.

Demonstrations of hydrators to thicken the honey and government and university displays around policy for the protection of stingless bees and the industry.

There is an amazing diversity of native bees; the keepers collect the bees in logs from the wild and simply put a honey box on the top.

He also attended the International Rubber Conference in Cambodia, where rubber is extracted from trees in plantations; rubber farmers have been affected by climate change and need an alternative income.

Native bees fit well in this environment; too hot for Apis bees and they don't do well.

Good climate for native bees, with lots of nectar on the flowers; resin and honeydew.

Keepers can get a kilo of honey per  month when the trees are in flower. Obviously these bees are also good pollinators.

Field trips:

Log hives are collected from the wild (with a chainsaw); an empty box with a plastic lid is placed on top; for a honey harvest the lids are lifted and a hose is used to suck honey from the pots.

Honey is sold from the farm gate. Many co-ops are created by single mothers collecting and selling honey.

One of the four top priorities for university studies is stingless bees.

Two main domesticated native bees in Malaysia are: Heterotrigona Itama

and the Geneotrigona Thoracica.

Tetragonula Laeviceps and Liepititca Trigona Terminata (she'll be baaack) are also domesticated to a lesser degree.

There are at least forty other species on the Malaysian peninsula; they range in size from 2mm to 10mm; lots of colours; some have white tips on wings and/or tails; bees can be very easily identified because their entrance tubes are so different.

20,000 spp. of bees worldwide;
600 spp. of stingless bees worldwide;
10 genera of Malaysian bees; of which two are in Australia.

Crystal bees:

Hard brittle propolis, but non-recyclable, coming from a particular tree; no tree = no bee.
These bees can't be removed from the forest.

Hair-cutting bee:
Very agressive bee; lands on head, grips hair and cuts it. Doesn't bite skin or even take the hair; just cuts it.

Sun Ray Bee:

Some species are very aggressive, despite being small; and can take over hives of others species. They use propolis to immobilise the enemy.

Entrance tubes are very elaborate in comparison to Australian bees.

In Malaysia stingless bee honey is the primary consideration.

Australian Apis honey sells in Malaysia for $50/kg; whilst native bee honey sells there for $150/kg.

There is a huge domestic market for honey in Malaysia, as a lot on health benefits are attributed to pollen, honey and propolis.

There is very little artificial propagation of stingless bee hives in

There are 2000 beekeepers with 100,000 hives, all collected from the forest. This has been encouraged by Government to supplement low income earners wages.

This is rapidly depleting the wild population, destroying the forest and removing hollow logs.

Logs have a honey box top of approx 400 x 400 x 100, approx 8 litres in volume; varies with species. Wide top is to facilitate honey extraction by sucking,

labour is very cheap; honey is expensive in Malaysia so this method is cost-effective; this would not be the case in Australia.

There is widespread recognition that these methods are not sustainable.

They know they have to domesticate and propagate hives, but with no real success to date as the queens are dying.

Tim showed the keepers how to use brood found in in the honey box to populate an empty OATH hive.

Main pests in Malaysia are black soldier fly and pollen beetle.

Comparison between Malaysia and Australia:

Species: Malaysia 40 / Australia 11;
Use: (domestic) : Malaysia: Honey production / Australia: Pets
(commercial) : Malaysia: Honey / Australia: crop pollination;

Most hives are obtained in the wild in Malaysia; most domesticated and propagated artificially in Australia.

Stingless bee honey has a high water content; in order to preserve it is dewatered/dehydrated/pasteurised and/or fermented.

At this meeting there were books and posters galore to have a look at, calendars for sale and an informal but intense discussion about lids and weather protection - things that you need to see rather than read about in a newsletter!

Tim was given a resounding round of applause for a very interesting talk on native bees not far from our shores. Thanks for giving us a wider understanding of what's happing in the greater native bee world Tim!

April 2017 Speaker: Trevor Weatherhead “What’s happening in the honey bee world”

• Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) record 13,000 honey bee keepers managing over 440,000 hives
• Honeybees in Australia valuated at $4-6 billion
•Bee biosecurity program – a code of practice adopted in most states to maintain the spread of pathogens and parasites
• Asian bees with Varroa jacobsoni (NOT the infamous and ominous Varroa destructor) was found in Townsville on the 27th of June, 2016

  • The response is to destroy the mites, not the bees
  • The eradication was deemed a success after killing to more instances in the 2 year period following the initial invasion

• One method to find colonies is through a process called bee lining, bees are lured with a sugar-water mix at multiple locations. The location of the colony is triangulated by tracking the flight direction of bees leaving the lure at each site, moving lures as the location is narrowed down.
• The presence of Asian bees is also detected through analysing the waste pellets of bee-eater birds – the hard waste regurgitated by birds to avoid digesting hard materials. Asian bee wings can be identified from the waste pellets, as they can be distinguished from European bees
• Another method for detecting Asian honeybees in the area is through balloon trapping, whereby weighted helium balloons are doused in queen sex pheromone to attract drones. Bees are caught on the sticky fly-paper dangling from the balloon, allowing researches to identify collected bees.
• The large hive beetle is a bee pest belonging to the dung beetle family. They destroy colonies by eating and destroying the comb
• Quarantine terminology

  • DWV = deformed wing virus
  • AHBIC = Australian Honey Bee Industry Council

• The AHBIC is planning on testing drone semen for the presence of DWV, so that we are prepared before it eventually makes its way here.
• There is some risk of the disease being transferrable to our native bees
• Quarantine “sentinel hives are placed at all ports, so any bees arriving internationally are likely to take residence in the only habitat available in the area. By checking these hives regularly, any invaders and bad tidings they bring can be caught well before they spread
• The AHBIC is also a member of Plant Health Australia, due to the impact of pollination on our environment and agricultural industry
• The AHBIC is currently in communication with industries to prevent bee losses due to insecticide poisoning
• The AHBIC is also involved in the exportation of queens to other countries, to aid with the lack of mated queens during the harsh winter months
• Research performed by the AHBIC is paid for by the honey levy collected from sales, and falls under the RIRDC – the Rural Industry Research and Development Corporation
• The BeeConnected app keeps beekeepers alerted to disease, pesticide or any other hazards reported in their area by other beekeepers, to keep vigilant
• The AHBIC also provides courses in a Certificate 3 in Beekeeping, as well as other courses for trainees and new members of the community
• Website is www.honeybee.org.au
• A recent circumstance of adulterated honey occurred, where a Turkish product advertised as honey was in fact flavoured corn syrup.

  • The ACCC was slow to react ,and although the company was sued for $30 000, they turned over $100k in profit
  • This is just one instance of an increasing, international problem

• The AHB industry council is holding the 3rd Australian Bee Congress at the Royal Pines Hotel in July 2018. A relevant aspect of this congress is that the final day will be devoted to a stingless bee symposium. In addition, we are proposing to hold a second event, a stingless bee and pollination satellite conference and tour after the honey bee congress.

February 2017 Speaker: The Zabels Journey
Russell commenced honey beekeeping when he was 8YO. By 17YO, he was keeping 90 colonies. During this time, he collected the occasional native bee colony, however his interest in native bees commenced after an article in the local paper with Tim Heard’s research into splitting native bee colonies in a box. This was 1988. He commenced a carpentry trade in 1974 and became TAFE building teacher in 1984. After leaving TAFE in 2012, he and Janine have devoted their full time to their native bee business. He and Janine have lived and worked in remote locations helping the locals understand native bees. The Zabels current manage over 500 colonies. Russell also assists his 82YO father manage 170 colonies of honey bees. Russell’s hobby is growing staghorns and elkhorns!.

Russell visited Dr. Kazuhiro Amano in Japan, who has done work exposing honey bees to gamma radiation, which caused the stinger to split while maturing, meaning they couldn’t sting. Dr Amano also kept many different species of bees in a temperature controlled glasshouse in Japan, including several colonies of Australian T. carbonaria. He found that while foragers that were alive prior to relocating the colony to the glass house died colliding with the walls attempting to escape, new foragers did not.
The Zabels went up to Aurukun, which hosts a large Aboriginal settlement. While there Russell taught Aboriginal youth how to keep bees in boxes, while they taught him about how their methods. Tetragonula are found commonly up there, and are used widely by the community. Propolis is used to make jewelry. Honey is collected by climbing a tree, cutting it open to expose the hive, then plugging the hole up with mud to reseal for later extraction.
The Zabels went up to Arnhem land in 2004, finding several species of stingless bees in the area. Hives found in unusual places, such as inside a termite nest, and directly in the ground. Saw an old aboriginal wall art depicting “the sugar bag lady”.
In 2005 Russell then lived in Arnhem land for a year, working with the Aboriginal community to again find bees, build boxes, and educate. North of Arnhem land is destined to be mined for bauxite, and in the process an 800 ha dam is to be built. Russell is to help work with the community to check tall trees in that area for nests to relocate
In 2008 Russell went to Port Keats.
He has since been developing a hive heating system by putting a section containing a thermostat and truck bulb below the hive section.