A comparison between native bee (Trigona Carbonaira) renamed to Tetragonula Carbonaira vs introduced honey bee (apis mellifera)


Native bee

(Tetragonula Carbonaira)

Honey bee

(apis mellifera)

Subfamily Eliponinae – Native Austroplebia or Tetragonula stingless bees Apinae – introduced honey bee from Europe in about 1822
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image from www.aussiebees.com.au

Species 2000 or more native bees – stingless, social and hundreds of solitary or semi social bees

10 species of social native bees

20,000 species but only 7 species of honey bee are recognized
Hive cost approximately $550+

(Comes with hive box and colony of bees)

www.sugarbag.net – native bee suppliers and other resources

+ $700-900

Separate costs for set up of hive, protective equipment, and cost of package bees or nucleus.

Location of hive Facing north and east

Do best when receive morning sun, afternoon shade

Out of sun by 10am

From morning sun to open sunny position
Hive Conditions Field workers operates between 18°C and 35°C Field workers – generally most conditions out and collecting nectar / pollen
Worker Conditions within hive Dependent on the hive construction – well insulated, temperature and humidity controlled – between 26 – 28.5°C. Temperature (38-40°C) and humidity controlled
General description of worker bee Worker bees 3-4 mm in length

Small grey black in colour

Worker bees – 13mm to 17mm in length

Italian or Ligurian  – abdominal bands varying in colour from dark straw to golden to deep yellow

Caucasian bee – grey / black haired

Hive colony description Consists of queen

Female worker bees

Males drone bees

Consists of queen

Female work bees

Males drone bees

Numbers in colony Strong colony – 5,000 Strong colony 30,000 – 80,000 worker bees
Typical day Young worker bees (callows) ability to make wax with plant resins (ability to make wax declines with age), clean the hive – rubbish disposal, guard duties, foraging Worker bees – gather nectar, pollen, propolis, water, produce wax to build combs, control hive temperature and humidity, attend queen, produce brood, nurse the brood, clean the hive, ripen and store honey and protect the nest
Distance travelled 500m radius but prefer to forage within 100m 5000 – 8000m radius
Average age Average 50 days for worker bees

Queen – ?

Average 40 days for worker bees

Queen – up to 5 years

Life cycle Worker

Egg – 3days

Larva – 6 days

Pupa –


Egg – 3days

Larva – 6 days

Pupa – 8 days

Workers mature – 21 days

Defense Stingless

Other means of protecting the hive – such as deposits sticky resin around their entrance.

Can bite and crawl over the invader

Can repeatedly daub invader with small blobs of resin until invader becomes immobile.


Multiple stings from angry hive

Protection required

Food source Nectar – carbohydrate (energy)

Pollen – protein

Nectar – carbohydrate (energy)

Pollen – protein

Collection Carry pollen on hind legs

Honey sac to collect nectar

Carry pollen on hind legs

Honey sac to collect nectar

Usefulness Pollination in gardens Pollination in gardens
Communication Not sure Waggle Dance
Hive structure Brood super – two boxes

Additional super added for honey production

Brood super

Honey super 1-2-3 in total

Honey and pollen storage Stingless bees hoard their excess stores in irregularly shaped pollen and honey pots which overlap and are attached to the walls and ceiling of their home. Honey bees store excess honey and pollen in regular hexagonal cells contained within vertical combs made of pure beeswax
Honey production If honey super added about 0.5 to 1.5kg Based on 8 frame super – about 30 kg /super
Cost of honey 500g  – $50 500g – between $7 – $10
Cost of beeswax $75 per kilogram (unprocessed contains honey, pollen and dead bees) $30 per kilogram
Disease Small Hive Beetle

Syrphid fly (Ceriana ornate)

Bembix wasp or Sand Wasp

Cadaghi (Corymbia torelliana or Eucalyptus torelliana)

American Foulbrood (AFB)

European Foulbrood (EFB)

Small Hive Beetle (SHB)

Greater and Lesser Wax moth




Legal requirements Nil Become a registered beekeeper with DPI –


Register hive with Department of Primary Industries (DPI)

Limited to number of hives on suburban block –

2 hives – 500m2

4 hives – 1000 m2

Unlimited hives – over 1000m2


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Hive only brood box containing Italian or Ligurian honey bees

Near terracotta pots –containing water plants – located on star post double box hive of stingless bees – (Tetragonula Carbonaira)

Photo M. Glabus

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Native hive within log, rescued October 2015.  Hive contains (Tetragonula Carbonaira). Photo M. Glabus

Source of information



  • Australian Stingless Bees – A guide to Sugarbag Beekeeping – John Klummp
  • The bee book – Beekeeping in Australia – Peter Wahurst and Roger Goebel
  • Bee AgSkills – A Practical Guide to Farm Skills – Department of Primary Industries.
  • Backyard Bees – A guide for the beginner beekeeper – D. Purdie.
  • Australian Native Bees Guide – DPI

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