Stingless bees have a number of benefits over honey bees as managed pollinators of crops.

1. They are stingless and therefore pose no threat to people or animals.

2. They may be more efficient pollinators than honey bees of some crops.

3. They may have a higher preference for some crops than honey bees.

4. They are adapted to tropical conditions where honey bees may not thrive.

5. Hives are small, easily handled and relatively inexpensive.

6. Hives are maintenance-free and are not known to become queenless.

7. Hives can be easily closed when orchard is sprayed with fungicides or insecticides.

8. Keeping of native bee species is a form of nature conservation.

While the role of honey bees in the pollination of crops is fully appreciated, there is much scope for exploiting wild bees for pollination of certain crops in certain locations. Management of the alfalfa leaf cutter bee for the pollination of lucerne for seed has increased yields and provided an alternative income for some north American beekeepers. The method of propagating hives of stingless bees as described may open the way for the increased use of these insects in managed crop pollination.

Australian beekeepers are in an ideal position to exploit this development. They have the expertise in carpentry, bee culture and bee flora, they have the contacts with growers of entomophilous crops and they have the equipment to move hives.

Tim Heard,
CSIRO Division of Entomology, Long Pocket Labs, Indooroopilly 4068

DATE: December 2001

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