Release the (stingless) bees!
REDFERN: The sustainable and organic James Street Reserve Community Garden has announced the arrival of a hive of stingless bees, with the help of sponsor Burt’s Bees. The tiny bees will function as stable pollinators and play a vital role in the whole ecosystem of the garden.
The bees are an Indigenous species called tetragonula carbonaria (or sugarbag bees). “They are harmless to people and ensure a reliable source of pollinators,” says Jon Kingston, who is both head gardener and beekeeper.
Jon has been studying bees since high school when he was leader of the Rural Youth Bee Group. He started building this particular hive two months ago. Even though many solitary bees (such as blue banded bees and leaf cutter bees) visit the diverse plants within the 241sqm area, their seasonal nature affects the continuity of pollination. “The colony of bees we have introduced are more accustomed to the climate and temperature here in Sydney, and compared with European bees, they can reproduce and maintain pollination rates for years,” Jon said.
The community garden adheres to permaculture principles. The arrival of the hive will increase and strengthen biodiversity.
Burt’s Bees has been a sponsor of James Street Reserve since it launched in 2010. Senior brand manager Emma Martin said: “Not many people know that honey bees pollinate around one third of all the food we eat. So without bees, our ecosystem really faces dire consequences. So we want to encourage people to preserve bees and a sustainable environment.”
How exactly do these stingless bees enhance the pollination rate in the garden? Jon said the progress would be seen next year. “The rate will rise for sure,” he said. Also, he predicts more hives will be established in the garden in the future. “We are planning to have more hives of the same species of stingless bees here.”
Despite the small amount of honey produced by the bees (estimated at 1kg a year at most), the community gardeners still expect to enjoy a small feast. “As opposed to honey made by European bees, the honey of Indigenous bees is lighter and more fluid. It’s really a special taste,” Jon said.