Bees belong to one of the largest insect groups, the Order Hymenoptera. No other group of insects is as essential to human survival as bees. Bees pollinate over one-sixth of the world’s flowering plant species and 400 of its agricultural plants. Badly pollinated plants produce fewer and misshapen fruits and lower yields of seed. This affects the quality of crops produced, and therefore the availability of food at affordable prices.
Because they are known to sting, bees get some bad publicity, and for people who are allergic to their venom, a bee sting is a serious matter. However, keeping everything in perspective, without bees we would struggle to feed the Earth’s population. In South East Queensland we have the European honeybee familiar to most, but there are also a number of native bees. Some live in hives but the majority of bees are solitary with each female making her own nest. The solitary bees will sting but the social bees living in hives are stingless.
Most bees have two transparent wings with a few veins and forewings that are larger than the hindwings. Their bodies are covered in hairs designed to trap pollen which they groom with their legs to carry back to the hive. Honeybees are the most recognised and familiar. The common stingless bee in South East Queensland is about 4mm long, black with whitish hairs on the side of the thorax.
Honeybees lay eggs which hatch into larvae usually within 3 days. The larvae are fed with royal jelly, turn into pupa and eventually into adult bees. The development from egg to emerging bee differs for queens, drones and workers. An adult queen emerges after 16 days, a worker 21 days and a drone 24 days. Native bee larvae are vegetarian and feed on pollen.
European honeybees are extensively domesticated under the management of a beekeeper. Their hives are man-made and are transported around the countryside to get the best exposure to flowering plants and vegetables. However feral hives can be found in hollow trees and cavities. These undomesticated bees can be very aggressive. Native bees build nests made of wax and resin in hollow tree trunks, branches, fallen logs and rock crevices. They are found in Eastern Australia from the Atherton Tableland to Bega in New South Wales.
Bees ingest the nectar of flowers and plants then regurgitate it as honey. European bees produce more honey than they need which is why we can harvest so much of it and still have the bees survive. The native solitary bees don’t store honey in their nests at all, but use small amounts of nectar to feed their young. As a primitive species, the stingless bees produce only a small amount of honey which they need in cooler months to feed their young.
Detrimental Effects to Humans and Property
The biggest risk to humans from bees that sting is the pain of the bite, especially multiple bites. Apart from the pain they can trigger an allergic reaction which, if severe enough, requires immediate medical attention. This is known as anaphylactic shock and can be fatal without medical intervention.
Both cultivated and feral honey bees and some native bees swarm and can establish themselves in trees or vegetation near human habitation. Under no circumstances should anyone try to remove or kill these bees. There are methods that can be used to remove a swarm of bees but this should only be done by experts.
The team at Bob Gunn Termite Solutions are trained, experienced and licensed to advise on the best method for dealing with bees, and will offer a solution that suits each individual circumstance.