Friday, 8 January 2016

Teeny Tiny Native Bees 2

Back in the Spring of last year, I ordered a native bee hive for our garden from Matthew who rescues, splits and supplies them. We spoke for a long time over the phone that day, about these tiny native creatures, our garden and the surrounding area here. (I think Matthew was making sure some of his beloved bees would be going to a suitable home). He is so very passionate about them and his enthusiasm intensified my own. I simply couldn't wait to welcome a hive of these special little insects into our garden.

Almost three months later, just before Christmas, Matthew arrived with a hive at our place. Not a newly-split hive, but an intact hive that we would split together - Matthew, me and my young son. So, on a cooler and overcast Summer's day, with netting covering our heads (while these native bees are stingless they do have tiny pincers which they will use to defend themselves), we split the hive in our backyard. Dozens and dozens of little black bees flew all around us, settling on and 'tickling' our arms, hands and legs momentarily, as we opened up their home.

A sharp knife cuts through the wax the native bees use in their hives.
(This wax smells like the strong glue, Araldite.)

The hive is split in two.  Look at all the eggs in the centre.
Surrounding the eggs are the tiny "cups" that hold the "sugarbag" honey.

Two hives emerging from one.
Matthew puts a new base on one of the halves.

Sections are stacked up form a complete hive.
Adhesive cloth tape seals the gaps between these sections.

Two entrances for the bees are covered with mesh. 
A little smear of the bees' wax was rubbed around the newly-created entrance.
(So it would smell like home!)

Two hives positioned in the garden on steel pickets.
Home sweet home for our native stingless bees.

Throughout the splitting process, Matthew talked to us about the bees. My son was flabbergasted by just how many bees live inside one hive and Matthew teased him by telling him it was his job to count all 7000 of them one by one! He showed us a queen egg, larger and almost golden among hundreds of others. He invited us to dip our fingers in the sugarbag honey filling the little "cups" inside the hive. (These cups are so very different in shape to the honeybee's hexagonal wax creations.) He held out tiny grains of bee pollen and encouraged us to try it. Such a strong and indescribable flavour from such a tiny amount of pollen. I'm not sure how many bee hours were spent collecting that pollen, but I'm sure it was many. Precious stuff! 

A precious, unforgettable experience too for a young child (and his mum) learning about nature and the very important role bees play in our world.


p.s. Our little native bees have now settled in.  Each morning, I have checked on them to ensure that there was plenty of activity around the entrances. Every second day since the split, I have wiped each hive over with a cloth soaked in metho to remove any eggs from the predators, such as wasps, that may do them harm. I've watched silently as they've set off from their hives on warm mornings. I have smiled too when they have then landed on the basil flowers not far from their front doors! 


  1. Hi Meg, bees! I love bees! My father-in-law was a beekeeper, and to me the sound of bees buzzing in the garden is one of the most cheerful sounds in the world. I often see native bees flying around my garden, but this is a whole other level:) What an exciting day for you and your son:) My daughter would love to get a beehive as well, but we are going to do chickens first. One thing at a time!!

    1. Hi Jo, I agree that the sound of bees is indeed magic. To me, it signifies a healthy garden when there are lots of bees around. This morning, we were all out in the garden topping up our compost bin and watching a native Blue-banded Bee buzzing around cherry tomato flowers. How it was flying I don't know because its pollen baskets looked so full they must have been weighing it down!

      I love chickens too!!! We have been watching Costa's Garden Odyssey (on DVD I borrowed from my local library)over the school holidays and several episodes showed how he set up a chicken coup and run in a suburban backyard. I'm sure, when the time comes for you to get your chickens, that the experience will be just as wonderful as ours was with our tiny native bees.


  2. Oh wow! I want to get a native stingless bee hive too, but the waiting lists are so long at the moment! How lucky you were to see a split when you bought the hive :)

    1. Hi, Liz! The wait was about three months from when I ordered my hive but its arrival, just days before Christmas, was the perfect gift! Being invited by Matthew to watch and help with the split was a wonderful experience, especially for my son:) I hope you'll be able to source a hive soon:)