Native bees

native bees Tetragonula carbonaria

Register now for the 2021 Native Beehive Program 

Our Native Stingless Beehive Program is a community engagement and education program which aims to increase awareness of native stingless bees within the Ku-ring-gai LGA, as well as contribute to essential pollinations services, by enabling residents to ‘foster’ a hive in their backyard. 

Every year since 2006, Ku-ring-gai Council have been distributing hives for residents to foster and we currently have approximately 700 active program participants.

Our bees

Our hives contain Tetragonula carbonaria – the only native bee species in the Ku-ring-gai area that lives in social colonies. They are a stingless species and therefore an ideal option for keeping bees without the worry. They are also great for teaching kids about the importance of insects and developing a positive relationship with wildlife in their own backyard. 

Bee-friendly gardens

The Australian Native Plants Society share their recommendations for pollinator plants. Download recommendations(PDF, 1MB) now.

Aussie Bee shows you how to provide a long-lasting and varied source of the nectar, pollen and building materials that bees need.

If you’re a resident who has questions about your native bee hive or are thinking about getting one, please see our FAQ section.

Native Bees FAQs

Why are native bees important?

Tetragonula carbonaria is one of the 11 stingless bee species found in Australia and the only one found in the Sydney region. They are a highly eusocial species with colonies comprised of a single egg-laying queen and her sterile daughters which function as workers. They are quite closely related to the honey bee (Apis mellifera) and like honey bees produce wax from glands on their abdomens. Unlike honey bees, they mix this wax with varying amounts of tree resin to form the structures of their hives. Naturally, they nest in hollows in trees and branches, rock crevices and sometimes human structures as well.

However, these bees are just one of the approximately 200 other species of bees in the Sydney region, many of which will be common visitors to your garden. Our native bees are important pollinators and unlike the western honey bee, which is technically an alien species, they belong here in Australia and work far more harmoniously with the Australian environment. They are a critical group of pollinators and many of our Australian plants rely on them for this service. Not only that, pound for pound the native bees can be far better pollinators than honey bees with many species possessing special techniques such as the buzz pollinating carpenter bees.

The importance of bees generally is now well known but it is our native bee species that are the unsung heroes and deserve more of our attention.

Register for a hive (residents only)

The Native beehive program for 2021 has now opened! Please register using the link at the top of this page.

Due to overwhelming interest from residents, annual stocks are limited and those who register will will not be guaranteed a hive. The creation of new hives is subject to a number of external factors such as extremes in weather and annual pest load. As such the number of hives made available for distribution each year is never guaranteed. All residents that register for the program will be entered into the Bee Lottery and those drawn will receive a hive.

Please note: You can only register for the waitlist via the online registration form that will appear on this page in June 2021. To avoid any confusion, we do not take requests by any other method, written or verbal.

How does the program work?

Native beehives are distributed to residents to look after or ‘foster’ on their property. The hives are very low maintenance. Residents are only required to keep an eye on the activity of the hive and report any concerns or problems to the Environmental Programs team. We will visit hives every two years in order to perform a split. Splitting is how we create more hives for the program and is an obligatory component of fostering a hive. Finally, just enjoy the thousands of tiny new additions to your backyard!

Watch our Native Beehive care video for all the tips to look after your hive.

Splitting hives

The hives are periodically split into two halves to provide new hives to more residents. Every hive distributed to residents remains the property of Council and a part of the Native Beehive Program. Residents with beehives will be contacted by Council to arrange for the hive to be split every couple of years. Splitting the hive is a really important part of expanding the program and distributing new hives.

No hive will be split unless it is healthy and ready. The health of your bees is our primary concern and we won’t risk any hive by splitting it prematurely.

Download 2020 beehive splitting diary(PDF, 976KB)

A small number of hives are sold out of area each year and all funds from this are put back into the program. More information on sales of hives can be found below.

Go behind the scenes of our Native Beehive Program and read the Beehive Splitting Diaries from 2014, 2015 and 2017.

Yearly schedule

The next round of online registrations for hives will open in June 2021 and will close in November 2021.

September - The Environmental team will visit residents registered with the program to check the health of their hive in preparation for a split. Healthy hives will then be split and the new hives that are created are then rested for 6 weeks before being distributed to residents from the waitlist during December & January. Resident beehives are generally split on a 2 year cycle.

I am not a resident can I get a hive?

The Native Beehive program is open to Ku-ring-gai residents only. However, people out of area can purchase a native beehive, see purchasing information below. All funds raised are returned to the program.

Terms and Conditions

Hives remain the property of Ku-ring-gai Council.

Hives remain the property of Ku-ring-gai Council and as such you are not permitted to split the hive yourself, collect honey, or move the hive to another address (unless within the Ku-ring-gai area and with prior consultation with Council).

Should you be moving out of Ku-ring-gai you are required to arrange the return your hive to Ku-ring-gai Council.

You must be a Ku-ring-gai resident to participate in the program.

How hives are allocated

Hives are only allocated to residents of Ku-ring-gai. Unlike in previous years, hives are now allocated by the principle of a lottery dur to the overwhelming demand for hives on the program. The wait list will be open for a much longer period (between June and November) and will not cut off at a set number. Everyone who has registered their details has an equal chance of hosting a hive.

Hive availability

Please be aware that there is a limited number of hives available and this registration does not guarantee you a hive. Council will do its best to ensure those on the wait list receive a hive and that as many hives as possible are made available. However, hive availability is subject to the success of splitting seasons which is dependent on prevailing weather conditions.

Requirements of the program

The hive is to remain on the property of the person registering for a bee hive. If you move outside of the Ku-ring-gai area, you must contact us regarding return of the hive to the program.

A condition of receiving a native bee hive as a resident of the Ku-ring-gai Local Government Area (LGA) is that Council retains ownership of the hive and therefore the right to check and split the hive on a yearly or two-yearly basis. This usually takes place between September and November, and you will be contacted via email prior to the check and split taking place.

We will require safe access to your property to check and split the hive. If you are not comfortable or unable to provide Council staff with access to your property for hive maintenance you will be unable to participate in the program and the hive will need to be collected and returned to the program.

Please provide the details requested on registration about locked access and dogs on property. This is essential to enable us to arrange a mutually convenient time to visit, if locked and for our staff to access safely if you have dogs.

Residents are required to be contactable via email, please inform the program if you update your email address. If no contact is able to be made with participants the hive might be removed from the property. Please add wildthings@kmc.nsw.gov.au to your address list so that the emails do not go to your spam folder.

Beehives for Schools and educators

The native stingless bee hive program is extremely popular with our residents and every year we receive interest from Schools and other institutions in Ku-ring-gai, wanting to secure a hive of their own.

However, unlike residents, schools don’t get their hive through the Bee Lottery but via our Environmental Levy Grants program.

Why don’t schools get included in the Bee Lottery?

One of the important reasons is that access to the hive is often limited, especially during holiday periods, making it difficult for us to manage the hives in the same way as our residential ones. Additionally, the person responsible for the hive can change frequently as staff come and go, sometimes resulting in a breakdown in communication.

We also want to enable schools to secure hives when they are ready and not have to run the risk of missing out through the bee lottery. This is why we prioritise the use of our grant system for schools.

Grant applications for bee hives and accompanying projects are viewed very favourably and we can help you with the process from start to finish.

What are the advantages of the grant system?

  1. Priority on hives – schools get priority on new hives as they’re created each year. 
  2. Ownership – through the grant system the school owns their hive, giving them freedom to do more with their hive and removing the obligation of having the hive split every two years.
  3. Support – schools can access the expertise of Council, including guidance on looking after your hive, email bulletins, health checks and splitting services upon request.

For more information on our grants and other benefits for schools in Ku-ring-gai head to Smart Schools.

More than a bee hive…

We don’t want to just drop off a stingless bee hive and that be the end of our relationship, we believe that a stingless bee hive can be the start of something far grander and more holistic and can form a part of great learning resource for students. 

Native and edible gardens

Bees need flowers and an excellent accompaniment to your native bee hive is native plantings. These also form habitat for lots of other beneficial insects and animals. Why not create a bee hotel? Or a pond as a resource for native frogs, fish, birds and reptiles? 

Speakers

At Council we also have a number of specialists in areas from insects to native plant life, with the ability to run specialist presentations and workshops upon request, all of which are free of charge subject to availability!

We encourage all schools, or any community or education group, to get in touch if they want to develop projects for native flora or fauna. Whether you’re a teacher, student or educator, have some great ideas that you’d like Council’s help with or just don’t know where to start we’d love to hear from you. 

Contact us at wildthings@kmc.nsw.gov.au.

Purchasing a hive

How can I purchase a hive?

Email wildthings@kmc.nsw.gov.au to join the waitlist. You will be notified when beehives become available for sale. We do not post our hives and those who purchase a hive will need to collect it from Council. Please note sales and pick up need to be pre-arranged.

Can I purchase the new KOATH design?

As of Spring 2021 you will be able to purchase our new KOATH design! We are phasing out the old polystyrene hives in favour of the all-in-one KOATH. These new hives combine the foam insulation and hive into one composite box, meaning no more need for separate polystyrene insulation. These boxes are more challenging to construct be we believe that it is worth it to create this more streamlined design. 

Cost

Standard Native beehive with foam box insulation (including bees): $520. Please note these are being phased out so stock is limited and must be specifically requested. 

Our new KOATH hives (including bees) are $550.  

Hives come with a 6 month warranty. This excludes damage/death to hive caused by negligence or not following care instructions.

Current beehive stock

Native stingless bee hives are currently out of stock. Council will have more stock available in late Spring. For those interested in purchasing a hive please email the Environmental Programs team to have your details placed on a waiting list.

There is a limited stock of materials (foam boxes and wood hive pieces) available for sale. Please email the Environmental Programs team for details

More information on commercial sales and splitting services can be found at Aussie Bee.

Watch and learn

Discover Ku-ring-gai Council's own environmental channel. Our Sustainability webinars includes step-by-step video tutorials on everything from native bees, converting your pool to a pond, plant identification, snakes, lizards, insects, spiders and more.

Enquiries

For any questions about the native stingless beehive program please contact Ku-ring-gai Council's WildThings program.

Register for the Sustainability enews and receive the latest events, rebates and sustainability tips in your inbox every month.