Native beehive program FAQs

What do I need to look after my hive?

The short answer is basically nothing! No maintenance needs to be undertaken for the health of the hive - they are very self sufficient!

Observation is key - keep an eye on their activity. They should be nice and active when the weather is warm.

Other than that, just enjoy!

Do I need to move my hive from summer to winter spots?

When delivered, Council staff place the hive in an area they believe to be the best spot all year round. However, bees can overheat in summer if they are left in direct afternoon heat. Residents may like to shift their hive slightly in the peak of summer and dead of winter to a more or less shaded spot respectively.

On 40 + degree days it is important to help keep the hive cool by placing a wet towel over the hive during the day. Another option is to temporarily place the hive in a cool area. If you decide to do this, you will need to seal the hive up the night before to trap the bees inside. In extreme cold, moving the hive slightly (only a metre or so) into an area where they get morning sun is a good option.

Can I move my hive around my backyard?

When moving hives, care should be taken. Forager bees have an exceptionally strong GPS which, while great for helping them find their way back from foraging, can also cause problems if the hive is moved.

The hive should not be moved more than a metre or so at a time and should only be moved of a night time once all the worker bees have made their way back to the hive. Once moved, keep an eye on the bees to make sure they are foraging and returning to the hive as normal and not hovering where the hive used to be.

If you need to move the hive greater distances this is much more involved. Please contact wildthings@kmc.nsw.gov.au for more information.

Do I need to split my hive?

No. The splitting of hives is only done to create more hives. It has no health benefits to the hive and actually depletes the resources and health of the hive initially as you are literally creating two from one.

Council staff will split the hives on a 2 - 3 year schedule. This allows for the hives to re-establish well between splits and minimises the amount of times the hive is opened.

As the hives are a part of the Native Beehive program and remain the property of Ku-ring-gai Council, residents are unable to split the hives or obtain honey from the hives. Council will periodically retire the hive at which time the hive becomes the property of the resident.

Will my beehive produce honey?

Unlike the exotic honey bee, Tetragonula do not produce large amounts of honey. At most, bees will produce 1kg of honey a year but this is when hives are fitted with honey collecting layers.

Beehives that are a part of the Native Beehive program are not fitted with honey collecting layers. If there is honey present when the hive is split staff are happy to give residents a taste and collect what honey is possible.

I am not a resident, can I get a hive?

Only Ku-ring-gai residents are eligible to become a part of the Native Beehive program. We sell a limited number of native bee hives out of area to help fund the program. Please see our Native Beehive page for more details.

Common bee behaviour questions

There has been no activity around my hive?

Throughout the winter months it is very common for there to be no activity at all around the hive. We prefer not to open the hive during the winter in case it is still active and we might make it vulnerable as a result. Usually, there will be a few guard bees clustered around the entrance of the hive or just inside the entrance. If you can see these, the hive is fine, it is just not warm enough for activity.  

Just make sure that it is in a sunny spot so that it gets some warmth on the sunny days.  If it isn’t, then you can move it a metre or so in the evening (foraging bees back indoors) to a slightly better position.  If you need to move it further than this to get sun then do it gradually so the bees have time to reset their location.

If it is spring or summer and the temperatures are reaching over 23 degrees regularly, a lack of activity should be investigated. Please email wildthings@kmc.nsw.gov.au 

My bees are swarming what do I do?

Swarming is a very interesting (although sometimes distressing) behaviour of your hive. Generally, it involves large amount of bees clouding around the hive or congregating at the entrance. This can escalate to a full-blown battle in which bees will grab hold of each other resulting in large amount of bee deaths. These are generally all the female forager bees.

Swarming does usually resolve itself in a couple of days, sometimes the defending hive will seal itself up and this will discourage the invaders for long enough for them to move on. However, swarming can carry on for a number of weeks. There is not a lot that can be done to help or prevent swarming, however despite the potential large casualties, swarming rarely results in the death of a hive.

Bee sales enquiries

How can I purchase a hive?

Please email wildthings@kmc.nsw.gov.au to join the waitlist to be notified when beehives become available for sale. Pick up is from Council Chambers or at our nursery sites on selling days. Please note sales and pick up need to be pre-arranged.

Can I purchase the new KOATH design?

No, this design is still in trial stage and is not for sale to the general public.

How can I have my hive split?

Council does not offer a splitting service or sale of splitting materials for hives sold.

It is important to note, that hives do not need to be split to maintain the health. Splitting is only undertaken to produce additional hives.

Information about the process of splitting a hive as well as the dimensions of the OATH hive can be found through online and youtube searches including Tim Heard. His book “The Australian Native Bee Book” is also an excellent resource.

Commercial splitting services are also increasingly available throughout the Sydney region.

Additional resources

For more information on keeping native bees visit bee guru Tim Heard's website or Aussiebee's website.