Native Stingless Bee Hive

Tetragonula hockingsi Journal

The Bees Have Arrived: activate meliponiculture adventure!

Day One of my Meliponiculture Journey


I saw the van and my heart leapt in excitement! The bees had finally arrived!

I took the box, thanked the courier and took it to the front porch where it would be placed.

A bee between the tape and the box ©Jane Frost

With alarm I noticed a bee crawling between the tape and the outside of the box. I ran to get the scissors. By the time I got back there were three and when I cut the first section of tape, another flew past my face.

Three bees between the tape and the box ©Jane Frost

They had had a long journey. Eight days at least, in a taped up box travelling hundreds of kilometres to their new home. Only after they were on their way did I read some words of caution from Dr Tim Heard, Australia’s foremost stingless bee expert. He doesn’t ship this species more than one thousand kilometres as he is worried about compromising the potential genetic uniqueness of bees so far from each other, despite the fact that they are the same species.

It was too late. They were on their way and would need to be allowed out when they got here… So much for the hours of research before I purchased and after I put in the order…

When I finally cut the last layer of tape and cut open the box, the hive was revealed. I could see a small cut in the tape over the entrance. This is obviously where the bees had escaped. The entrance was full of bees and they were under the crinkles in the tape.

A cut in the tape. Did the bees do this? Or was it during the packaging or couriering? ©Jane Frost

After placing the hive on its new stand, I pulled off the tape gently and bees poured out like water. Some flew, but most tumbled to the floor and wandered about on the tiles. Others crawled across the front of the hive in a formation that was familiar.

Fanning out and fanning wings to cool the hive ©Jane Frost

I read about them standing on the outside of the hive when it is hot. It probably was hot in there. On my porch it was a pleasant 28 degrees Celcius (82 degrees Fahrenheit), but these bees had been in the depot in a town near the coast which was generally hotter and I can only imagine what it would have been like during the trip in the delivery van.

I watched them mass before quickly notifying the company that I bought it from that it had arrived.

When I went back I noticed a number of bees carrying things out of the hive. On closer observation I realised that they were dead bees. I had read that this was normal. Every day, workers clear out the dead bees, but these bees hadn’t been able to for eight days at least. No wonder there were so many.

Having said that, there couldn’t have been more than 20 that I personally observed and the hive contains between 5000 and 10000 bees according to the seller.

Taking out the dead bees ©Jane Frost

It’s now about 90 minutes since I opened the hive. Things are settling down. There are still plenty of workers going in and out as they orient themselves to the new position, but the crowd on the outside has all but disappeared.

I’m wondering whether to open it and check the inside. I am worried the temperature may have melted the wax, but I’m not sure so I’ll wait for the seller to get back to me. The children would probably like to see inside anyway and they are at school.

This hive has a 12 month guarantee as long as I keep a logbook. This is the first entry.


Still lots of bees going in and out. No evidence of foraging yet — pollen baskets appear empty. Also checked nearby flowers and no hockingsi evident.

Saw what could have been a phorid fly walking on the box — squashed it.

I don’t like to squish anything, but if this is a phorid fly it could destroy the whole hive. ©Jane Frost


Still lots of bees going in and out. No evidence of foraging yet — pollen baskets appear empty. Also checked nearby flowers and no hockingsi evident.


Still lots of bees going in and out. No evidence of foraging yet — pollen baskets appear empty. Also checked nearby flowers and no hockingsi evident.

Some evidence of removing “rubbish” from hive, mostly orange bundles…

Taking out the rubbish ©Jane Frost

Inside a Tetragonula hockingsi hive – buzz – Australian native stingless bees


Opened hive to make sure structure was still viable after transport. Looked fine to my inexperienced eye. Closed and strapped it again.

Observed many bees going in and out. No bees on nearby flowers but then…

Pollen Pants!!!

Pollen pants! Those yellow white blobs on the legs are pollen! ©Jane Frost

They are obviously foraging from somewhere. I observed both white pollen pants and orange pollen pants. Hurrah!

On further observation, I noted that the “guards” were standing in the entrance and rapidly flapping their wings. I have read about this too. The theory is that it helps cool the hive.

A guard standing in the entrance fanning her wings ©Jane Frost

And now it’s night time and still they spread across the front of the hive. Are they too hot? Is this normal?

After dark ©Jane Frost

It’s so hard to get information on these lovely creatures. I’m looking forward to the learning ahead and hoping this obsession will never end… after all there are worse addictions than nature and meliponiculture!

This post was originally published in the online publication “Tea with Mother Nature”.

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