A GREAT bee battle set the Native Stingless Bee Expo buzzing yesterday at the Clarence River Jockey Club.

The battle broke out when pheromones from one hive wafted down to another, setting the scene for a battle for territory.

They may not sting, but the native bees have got a bite.

Clarence Native Bees Group's Jo Wearing said the fiercely territorial bees latched onto each other and wrestled to the death during the fight.

Once hostilities ceased, the expo got under way, where native bee enthusiasts could swarm over the gathered experts and demonstrations of hive splitting, honey extraction and relocation methods.

University of Queensland native bee researcher Dr Tobias Smith said native bees were largely unknown compared to the common honey bee.

"There's a lot we don't know about these native bees," he said.

"There's so much potential for them in agricultural pollination, and I think the future of Australian horticultural crops is going to have a lot more stingless bee pollination."

Expo speaker Dr Tobias Smith shows off the inside of a hive at the Stingless Bee Expo at the Clarence River Jockey Club.
Expo speaker Dr Tobias Smith shows off the inside of a hive at the Stingless Bee Expo at the Clarence River Jockey Club. Adam Hourigan

Wayne Fuller first became interested in native bees from his grandfather, who worked in the bush and would sell native hives to chemists who would use the honey for cough medicine.

Mr Fuller started in the timber industry, but found an interest in beekeeping.

"I thought it was real easy, you just take these bees out to the bush and bring the honey home and sell it," he said.

"There's a lot more to beekeeping than just that I've learnt over the years."

Mr Fuller has been a commercial beekeeper in Grafton for over 35 years, and has grown to become the largest certified organic operation on the North Coast of NSW, with over 2500 commercial hives and selling close to 100 tonnes of honey to Capilano a year.

"Recently I have taken an interest in native bees, mainly because I'm seeing over the past few years they're disappearing in the bush, their habitat is being removed and I'd like to try and learn more," he said.

"I'm still experimenting, I've probably lost more hives than I've actually got at this stage, but it's all part of a learning curve."

Ms Wearing said the event was great, despite the casualties sustained in the opening skirmish.



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