Do stingless bees go to live next door?

Here’s a short Q and A between some native bee hive owners and the Bee Whisperer, Tim Heard:

Hi, Tim

My friends S and G have one of your hives and it’s fine.

G has put an empty hive resting above that hive for over a year hoping those in the hive below would populate it but he doesn’t observe any to and froing there.

I wonder if you have any advice for us so we can get the little critters into the empty one, please, Tim?



We received this reply from Tim:

Hi Michael, S and G,

There is only a very low probability of capturing a swarm of bees from an existing nearby hive into an empty box. There are a few reports of this occurring for Austroplebeia species bees. It is even rarer for Tetragonula species.

It seems that empty boxes are not recognized or accepted by scout bees searching for a location to found a new nest. Perhaps the search cues that bees instinctively use to find and identify a suitable location are not satisfied by the artificial appearance, smell and or feel of a hive box.

But when your hive reaches 8kg, you can use the empty box to split the full one, like I did at Michaels last month.

Regards, Tim

2 Responses to “Do stingless bees go to live next door?”
  1. Grant McCall says:

    We are thinking about establishing a hive of native bees in South Durras, next to a weekender we have there. The stingless quality of native bees is a big factor in our choice of going in that direction: there are not that many neighbours as we are in the middle of the Murramarang National Forest, but we would like to keep friendly with those we do have.
    Neither of us ever have done bee keeping before.
    We are going along to a meeting of the Urban Hive later on this month to begin to get some knowledge.
    We shall starting looking around for bee keeping supplies and advice after the meeting.

  2. Daniel Klaer says:

    I know Tim well and he is the man when it comes to native bees! I am not disputing anything he says above but I am sure he wouldn’t mind me sharing the following story.

    My partner has friends that had often talked to me about their native bee hive (being that I keep both native bees and European honeybees). When I visited their hive I was surprised to find two flourishing hives side by side. I asked when they had done the split. They hadn’t!

    Like S & G above they had simply put an empty hive beside there existing hive and the bees had moved in. For that to happen was extremely unlikely (as Tim mentions above) but it did happen.

    I guess the moral of the story is if you try something enough times perhaps it will happen. That doesn’t make it the best/most efficient way forward though. I have been using soft splits/eductions for years and still have a very slow turnaround time with them. A soft split is another method of hive propagation that is I guess halfway between catching a swarm and the tried and tested hive split). If you want more hives, splitting is the way to go.

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  • Michael Mobbs

    Michael is a former Environmental Lawyer who is uniquely placed to consult in four main areas:

    • Sustainability Coach and Speaker,
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