Native bees make good pets

Dr Tim Heard with a native stingless bee hive. BEES make good pets.

So says insect scientist Tim Heard, who has a bee in his bonnet over the little creatures.

‘‘It sounds a bit funny, but they do make fantastic pets,’’ Dr Heard said, of native stingless bees.

A native stingless bee hive.

Dr Heard will hold free workshops on the bees in Lake Macquarie this weekend.

To the ordinary punter, bees that don’t sting sound like an oddity.

‘‘They’re the pacifists of the bee world,’’ Dr Heard said.

‘‘They don’t look like your typical image of a bee – they’re small and black.’’

The former CSIRO entomologist said the bees were ‘‘unthinking little automotons [machines] with no consciousness or intelligence’’.

Nevertheless, they were driven to do their jobs and capable of working together to create complex nest structures.

Colonies consist of one queen, sterile female workers and male drones that ‘‘don’t do any work’’.

The drones simply ‘‘attempt to mate with the queen on the few occasions when she needs to mate’’.

‘‘They have a similar complex society to European honey bees.’’

Kids love them, Dr Heard said.

‘‘In some ways, it’s the kids who don’t do so well in the formal education system who are most interested in these bees,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s a way of drawing kids, who may not otherwise be so conscientious in the classroom, into educational experiences.’’

Lake Macquarie City Council, which is hosting the workshops, said attendees could learn about what’s involved in ‘‘keeping these perfect pollinators in your own backyard’’.

Participants could observe the ‘‘internal structure of hives and sample some incredible native bee honey’’.

Dr Heard said the bees were ‘‘great for conservation and permaculture’’.

They collect pollen and nectar for their own needs and ‘‘in the process they pollinate the plants, which results in higher yields’’.

The bees pollinate crops such as macadamias, avocado, citrus, lychees, blueberries and strawberries.

They produce only small amounts of honey.

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