Guide to Successfully Keeping Stingless Bees

Keeping Stingless Bees in a Ripley Valley Native Bees Boxed Hive

So you have purchased on of our stocked hives. Here is a quick guide on how to care for you fantastic new editions to your garden.

In many parts of Australia, Stingless Bees can be successfully kept in boxed hives. However, as hive boxes offer less insulation than a log, special attention must be paid to the position / siting of the box.

The boxes used for Stingless Bees are smaller than those used for commercial Honeybees (Apis mellifera). They also have a special two-part design that allows the nest to be propagated by a method called splitting (WE NEVER SPLIT HIVES AT RIPLEY VALLEY NATIVE BEES – WE CONSIDER IT BAD PRACTICE). The pictures (below) show a Standard Oath Stingless Bee hive box and a Honey Jar Design Hive designed by Ripley Valley Native Bee Hives. This design consists of 2 Brood Chambers (bottom and middle) and a  Honey Super (Top). separated by a ply panel (standard oath) or an acrylic panel and honey jar (Honey Jar design Hive).

 

Standard Oath Hive (above)

Standard Oath Honey Jar Design (Below)

 

 

Honey and the Honey Super

Small amounts of honey can be harvested from boxed hives of Stingless Bees in warm parts of Australia such as Queensland. (Remember that in colder areas such as Sydney, Stingless Bees may need all their supplies of honey to survive their dormant period in the winter).

Ripley Valley Native Bee Hives Native Bee boxes come with a separate compartment, Honey Super or jar for the honey stores,  honey Jar harvesting is quicker and safer for the bees, also less invasive. Just swap your full honey jar for the spare empty jar, and prick the inside pots and drain...or for a standard hive swap the view panel for the Honey Super Excluder (ply sheet with 2 holes) when your box reaches AT LEAST ¾ full in the bottom 2 Brood Chambers. Then the bees will start storing honey exclusively in the top Honey Super should you remove the clear view panel and replace with the ply (holes go towards the back). its very important you weigh your hive when you decide to store honey. To harvest honey just unscrew the Honey Super and puncture the honey pots with a comb or nail bed, then drain the honey, clean out excess propolis (don’t throw it out – just clean in water and keep to put back into the hive). Now you have cleaned your honey super and its dry (don’t leave any honey in the super shell, it will attract pests) you can replace and begin collection of honey again. You can harvest around 800g – 1kg of honey per year on average. Please don’t harvest during winter or 2 months prior, as the bees need all the honey they can. Also honey storing is a slow process, you should only harvest honey ONCE in a 12 month period or when your hive increases in mass by around 1kg. Remember if you access the Honey Super you may get spill and this will attract pests, so only open the Honey Super section when harvesting the stored honey and wipe up any honey spill.

Where to place your Nest or Box of Stingless Bees

The nest or box should be placed in a warm spot in the garden, preferably with morning sun (VITAL IN WINTER). Our hives are shaded by 11am. You can place your hive on a Besser Block, build a stand or use the included star picket mount. The site should also be sheltered from extreme afternoon heat and from cold winds. We have found placing the opening of your hive in a North / North-Easterly direction works best. But in the wild we have found them facing in all directions, anywhere from east to north is perfect. The bees require flowers for pollen and nectar preferably within about 100 - 500 metres of the nest. This makes keeping Stingless Native Bees in an urban environment easy, as everyone on your street will have some sortr of flowering tree, shrub or flowers all year round.  They will happily use a wide variety of native and introduced flowers and trees. In bloom Lilly Pilli trees and leptospermium seem to be favorites in our area here in Ripley, you can also plant basil or coriander and let it bolt (flower). In hot areas, a supply of water near the Hive is also desirable. This can be done by placing sphagnum moss or small pebbles into a tray and filling with water, the bees will use the moss or pebbles to perch on.

We suggest you DO NOT PLACE YOUR HIVE IN DIRECT SUN AFTER 11AM in summer - if its one of our hives, it will VOID YOUR WARRANTY.  Also remember that household and garden insecticides can kill bees. Take great care not to let your nest's foraging bees come in contact with insecticides or poisons. Pesticides become airborne, so please be aware of neighbouring properties using pesticides regularly. pesticides also have around 48hrs contact time, so be aware of the danger period.

Flies and Beetles that may attack Stingless Bees

A weak or damaged nest or boxed hive may be attacked by some specific predators: tiny black Phorid flies, larger Syrphid flies which look like wasps with forked antennae and South African Small Hive Beetles. These all love to lay their eggs on the honey and pollen stores or any seams on the outside of the hive However, only a weak nest would allow the grubs to multiply to damaging levels. Again, it is important to help the bees seal up any gaps in their nest defences as quickly as possible. We do this job for the bees with every hive we use for rescue or Eduction. Using our  blend of wax, we seal the entire hive from the inside, no pest can get into our hives in the short term, by the time its possible, the bees are healthy enough to defend themselves.

 

Things you should never do with your new hive

WINTER : Cooler Months

During winter it is imperative you have Morning sun on your hive, so the hive temperature raises above 18 degree quickly & the bees continue to forage as normal, Winter is much cooler and ambient daytime temperature is lower, so ideally you would position your hive in a spot that get full sun in winter, but is shaded by mid morning in summer. Summer your hive can be shaded most of the day, as the ambient temperature is higher and it takes less sun to reach 18 degrees

 

As previously mentioned, never leave any BROKEN or leaking honey pots or pollen pots in your hive, it will just attract pests (this is why we don’t split hives) if you split your hive you will automatically void your 12-month guarantee. It is vital you do not split the internal seal situated between brood chamber 1 and 2, as it can cause an influx of pests to your hive. You can view the inside via your supplied viewing panel. If you open your hive layers, below the view panel ALWAYS tape around the broken joint, the bees will reseal the hive but note you have breached the protection layer by breaking the seal. So you’ll need to give an extra layer of protection.

If you do have an invasion of Phorid Fly or Small Hive Beetle and your hive is still under guarantee it is vital you either bring it back so we can monitor it for a couple days and remove the pests and or hook it back up to the mammoth hive (introduce bee numbers to naturally kill the invasion) or you hook up to a full hive, with great activity and bee numbers  to do the same thing that we do.

Phorid fly is relatively common now days, but can easily be removed, if you do leave an invasion in your hive, (not just the odd one or two, we mean invasion) it can destroy your hive in a matter of days..in saying this, a healthy native bee hive will never allow pest to overtake it, so invasions are a sign of deteriorating health.

We do things very natural at Ripley Valley Native Bee Hives, we try not to intervene as much as possible. A healthy strong hive should be able to manage its own pests. But sometimes it needs a little help, BEFORE the pests get hold and wipe out an entire hive. In our experience by introducing great bee numbers into a hive, you can all but remove all hive pests and sickness, after all the bees have been doing this longer than we have so they must know what they are doing.

 

Things to know about your new hive

  1. Have the entry facing North / North-Easterly.
  2. Don’t leave your hive in direct sun after 11am in summer, if your hive is in direct sun after 11am you will cook your hive and your guarantee will be voided.
  3. Winter sun is very very important so that the bees remain active, you can also use a foam box at night during winter to keep the hive warm, dont forget to remove it when the temperature begins to go up in late winter. During winter the bees will build an insulating cover (involucrum) over the brood. If you don't place your hive in morning sun during winter they will not forage as effectively, and they will shrink considerably and possibly die out if you keep the hive too cold.
  4. Don’t split your hive between layer 1 and 2 in the first 12 months – this will void your warranty as it can potentially introduce pests.
  5. If you do have honey spill it is imperative you clean it all up, we don’t want pests. If you do split your hive after 12 months (we don’t endorse this) make sure you tape the section joints with a good tape at least 10mm either side of the gaps on the outside.
  6. Once your hive is ¾ full to view panel, you can swap the viewing panel for the ply and start storing honey in the top section (Honey Super), you will no longer be able to see inside your hive so keep this in mind.
  7. Only harvest honey once a year and never in winter or the 2 months prior to winter (the bees need the honey to get through the colder months).
  8. If you do have any concerns or need help, please feel free to contact us, we are just a phone call or message away.
  9. Most importantly enjoy your new native bees, I’m sure you will find them amazing little pollinators and your garden will flourish with their help.

 

Thank You for helping to save and conserve our Australia Native Stingless bees, without them we have no future, our survival as a species is dependant on us saving our bees for future generations.

 

Welcome to the wonderful world of Australian Native Bee Keeping!