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Native Bees on Fraser Island

native bees, fraser island

There are three species of native Australian stingless bees found on the Fraser Coast and on Fraser Island itself; Trigona carbonaria, Tetragonula and Austroplebeia. These tiny bees grow from 2-5mm (about half the size of a common honey bee) and are often mistaken for small flys or gnats due to their black colouring. Completely harmless to humans, stingless bees are an essential part of their local ecosystems - these bees pollinate many native wildflowers and plants and without them, many species would cease to exist.

Colonies of native stingless bees contain a queen, drones and thousands of workers who live together in nests found in hollow logs, tree branches and rock crevices on Fraser Island. These bees produce lovely sugarbag honey, a prized resource sold in small quantities and usually for a high price tag - one hive will only produce about 1kg of honey in a year. Recent scientific studies have found that this sugarbag honey contains similar properties to manuka honey which is used as an effective wound treatment.

Sugarbag honey was also highly prized by Fraser Island’s native people, the Butchulla Tribe, who guarded this natural resource with very strict rules. The Butchulla people never picked the white flowers favoured by the stingless bees to ensure that the bees could continue to produce the rare sugarbag honey. Tribe members would use the honey as a natural sweetener and the wax from the bees nests for canoe construction.

If you’re out walking on Fraser Island, keep an eye out for these tiny workers buzzing around the wildflowers or the White Cypress Pines near the beginning of the Great Sandy Strait Walk.

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