Bourbong Street buzzing with native bees

Native bees
Native bees swarming at the School of Arts in Bourbong Street.

Bourbong Street was a hive of activity today as native bees swarmed again outside the School of Arts.

Pedestrians were observed sidestepping the bees, which experts say are harmless.

It got the town buzzing though, with one theory circulating that different families of bees were battling over territory.

Leslie Lowe from TECKnology Indigenous Corporation backed the theory.

TECKnology stands for “Traditional Ecological and Cultural Knowledge” and the corporation is contracted by Bundaberg Regional Council to manage animal control issues with livestock and native fauna.

Mr Lowe said fighting bees “rip each other apart” in a contest over territory and domination.

“If they're swarming, they're only interested in mating,” he said.

“Unlike the European bee, the queen has four or five princesses that she brings up to a certain age, then she sends out scouts to take the princesses and start another hive.”

Indigenous name: Kabai

The species' Latin name is Tetragonula carbonaria, sometimes known as the sugarbag bee or bush bee. According to Mr Lowe, the indigenous name is Kabai.

They can swarm or fight for three or four days. They can't sting humans, but do “nibble” on mammals that annoy them or “resin bomb” them.

“They have mandibles like an ant and when they're fighting they rip each other apart,” Mr Lowe said.

Wikipedia says they're one of only 21 families of sting-less bees worldwide, 14 or which are in Australia.

The adult workers and males are all black, with some brownish tint in certain areas such as the legs. The worker's body length is 3.9 to 4.3mm, and the wing length is 4.1 to 4.6mm.

The male drones have very similar bodies and wing lengths, but can be identified by different antennae.

Mr Lowe said only .01 per cent of the population is male.

He sometimes blocks up the hive on Bourbong Street with resin to subdue their activity, but the determined creatures eat their way through and keep coming back.

Mayor Dempsey admires resilience

This persistence has made Mayor Jack Dempsey a fan.

“They remind me of resilience,” he said.

“No matter how many setbacks they suffer, they always come back.”

With Council's disaster management headquarters located in the School of Arts, it's a fitting reminder that Bundaberg is a resilient community.

The Be Active, Be Alive program is also based there, or as one staff member said today: “Bee active, bee alive”.