There are 2 varieties of Australian native bee that are highly social. These are the small stingless bees Austroplebeia australis and Trigona carbonaria. Grey/black in colour they measure about 4mm long. With nectar available year round, a hive will rarely store more than 1kg of honey. This contrasts with the Eurpean honey bee which collects large stores in expectation of long winters with cold and snow.
Identification: When the hive is opened, Trigona will crawl over the intruder, into eyes, ears, mouth etc. Austroplebeia do not show this behavior, and is one distinguishing behavioural difference.
Trigona build a hexagonal brood cell, in a flat layer spiraling outwards (horizontally). Austroplebeia do not build in a discernable regular pattern.
The Austroplebeia queen has a light brown appearance, in contrast to the dark brown Trigona queen.
"Research is showing that the native bee might be a more efficient at pollinating a range of crops, particularly tropical fruits such as avocados and macadamias."
Senior lecturer in agriculture and horticulture, John Swift - UQ Gatton.
For more information, visit Australian native beekeepers .