In more recent years pests and diseases have greatly affected the viability of the European honey bee for the purpose of pollination and so alternative options such as the use of stingless bees are being further explored.
A benefit of using native bees for the pollination of plants in Australia is that our bees have lived here for centuries and have developed and adapted well to the conditions. Also, because the social native bees used in the agriculture sector are stingless, it is a huge advantage for farmers, labourers and members of the community that live close to farms where bees are kept.
Anaphylaxis is a condition that people with allergies to bee stings can get when stung. Fortunately these people do not have to worry about getting stung by social native bees.
Because of the geographical location of many of the social bee species, their use and distribution in agriculture has been limited to the subtropical and tropical areas of Australia. Many species of stingless bees are excellent pollinators of fruit, nut and vegetable crops.
Solitary bees such as the Blue Banded Bee and Leaf Cutter Bee are being trialled for their use as pollinators in nurseries and greenhouses in Australia but are yet to be used commercially in the same way as stingless bees.
Stingless bees are well adapted to protect themselves against both native and foreign predators. For example stingless bees are more efficient at controlling the Small Hive Beetle than European bees.
Therefore native bees are well suited to agriculture in Australia as they are well adapted to the climatic conditions: they can live and exist in the natural environment or in artificially constructed hives. They are well adapted to protect themselves against most potential predators, both natural and introduced. Native bees act as a pollinator for plants and increase production.
Through their use as a vector for pollination, native bees help to produce seeds which are important for the continued biodiversity of native flora. Native bees produce the same valuable products such as honey and wax that European honey bees do, only in smaller quantities per hive.
The future prospects of native bees in agriculture are good.
© Steve Maginnity, NSW, 2015.