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7 August 2014

The Short Answer (TSA)

            The Sugarbag bee lives in Australia. This bee is one of only a few species of bees that is “stingless.” These bees not only don’t have toxic venom, they can’t sting at all.

Sugarbag Bee

Sugarbag Bee

The Sugarbag bee is also unusual because its name was changed a short time ago. This bee’s formal name used to be “Trigona carbonaria.”  But it has been given the new formal name “Tetragonula carbonaria” – “T. carbonaria” for short.

The Sugarbag bee doesn’t have the yellow and black markings of the well known western honeybee. Instead, this bee is dark black all over. So, the Sugarbag bee looks a bit more bug-like and a bit scarier than the bees we’re used to seeing. Without the ability to sting, its dark color may “put off” would-be attackers.

When the nest of Sugarbag bees is invaded by small beetles, these bees can’t sting the intruders.   So, instead, they coat the unlucky trespassers with beeswax and resin. Then, they add mud and dirt to the coating to make each beetle into a sort of mummy.

Although there is no mention of Sugarbag bees being raised commercially by beekeepers, these bees produce good honey. Indigenous Australians often search for Sugarbag nests. When the hunters find one, they “harvest” the whole nest, consuming not just the honey but the honeycombs as well. The Sugarbag bee also pollinates orchids and cycadS so that these plants will produce seed for their next generation.