5 FASCINATING FACTS ABOUT STINGLESS BEES

Posted September 24, 2019
by Hilary
5 Fascinating Facts About Stingless Bees

If you’re in the U.S., you might not have heard of stingless bees because well, we don’t have them here. Stingless bees are found only in a few lucky pockets of the world. Read on to find out what we are missing out on with these amazing bees.

They Are Tropical

Some 500 species of stingless bees inhabit our world, but these bees only live in tropical and subtropical regions. You can find them in Central and South America, Africa, South East Asia, and Australia. In these warm climates, the bees are often active year round.

Stingless Bee Nest

Soldier Bees

Stingless bees, like honey bees, are social and live in colonies. They have a queen, workers and drones, but some species have an extra caste: soldiers! These specialized nest defenders are given extra food during their larval state. As a result, they develop physiological differences, like a larger body or bigger legs, that aid them in their role of protecting their colony.

Back Up Queens

Stingless bees have many similarities to honey bees, but when it comes to queens, they may have a better plan. Honey bee colonies often rely on a single mated queen to sustain their population and if she dies, they rush to make a new one, but if they fail, they face collapse. In contrast, stingless bees keep unmated “back up” queens in their hives in case their active queen fails. These virgin queens just keep out of the way until they are needed!

Gradual Swarming

Another smart variation stingless bees have over honey bees is their swarming technique. A honey bee swarm is a singular event. The queen and a large group of workers take flight together and set off to establish a new nest. Yet, stingless bees are much more careful. Swarming for them is a gradual process. Scout bees and worker bees often travel ahead of the queen to the new location and begin building the new nest before she arrives. The bees will sometimes transport materials to their new nest site from the old for weeks before the process is complete.

5 fascinating facts about stingless bees

Stingless Beekeepers

You might be surprised to hear that the ancient art of beekeeping is not limited to honey bees. Many cultures practiced keeping stingless bees as well. One of the oldest examples can be found in the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico where Mayans kept native stingless bees long before the Spaniards introduced European honey bees. Today, there is a resurgence in stingless beekeeping practices in many of the regions where they are native. In Mexico, stingless beekeepers are working to bring back the lost tradition, while in Australia businesses and cooperatives are helping to promote the new hobby.

Want To Know More?

Want to find out even more fascinating stingless bee facts? Read all about them and so many other incredible bee species in my new book: The Little Book of Bees! Note: The best way to support me as an author and beekeeper is to order my books directly from my website.

The Little Book of Bees by Hilary Kearney

28 Comments

  1. magzilla44

    Great info! Thank you. We do need bees, stingless or not.

    Reply
    • Susan K Moore

      YES we need STINGLESS BEES….
      Please keep them around……

      Reply
  2. Lisa Peter

    where can we buy stingless bees for beekeeping?

    Reply
    • Hilary

      They only live in tropical and subtropical climates. We do not have them in the USA.

      Reply
      • Angga Rahmat

        I have some species of Stingless Bee… i keep them at wall side of my house…

        Some Species that are very friendly to humans… eg Tetrigona Apicalis & Geniotrigona Torachica…

        But there are also those who attack aggressively when disturbed, such as Heterotrigona itama and Tetragonula Biroi, but do not cause harm to us…

        It’s really fun keeping the Stingless Bee

        https://youtu.be/2VCEfRkoy_M

        Reply
  3. Robinson

    How much is the Book:The little book of Bees

    Reply
      • Invisibleman

        Hi im kinda interested in beekeeping recently… I lived in SEA i have quite a few questions:
        1. Is it good for beginners to keep this bee?
        2. I see lots of blogs and videos said that it is stingless but it will bite and easily die if you smoke it? Which they dont recommend then what of they get aggressive during harvest?
        3.possible to breed them in high rise building in city area? Of course with few flowers and crops around.
        4.how to harvest the honey correctly? I saw some of them poke a hole and flip entire box upside down to let honey flow. While some others detached the honeycomb/looks like egg , poke a hole and squeeze it through a filter cloth/cheese cloth?

        Reply
  4. Edilee Rosales

    I’m a Stingless Beekeeper or Meliponiculturist in the Philippines. Love your article on Stingless Bees. They are not that quite known, so thanks for writing this.

    Reply
    • Tara

      Edilee, are you able to ship to the USA or do you know someone who does? I am setting up a place for stingless bees at my homestead.

      Reply
      • Hilary

        We can’t keep stingless bees in the US.

        Reply
    • Maya

      Hello do you by chance sell your hives I live in Hawaii do you ship your hives at all? I am willing to pay what you ask for the hive and the shipping cost

      Reply
      • Hilary

        I don’t. There are a lot of beekeepers in Hawaii though. Try looking up your local beekeeping club.

        Reply
  5. David Coelho

    Thank you Hilary. I am looking for information on how to apprentice with a bee keeper
    to learn about proper care for bees. I grew up on a farm in rural Arroyo Grande, CA, where my father raised cattle and grew hay and assorted crops. We always had enough wild honey bees
    and bumblebees to pollinate. I especially get excited to see a bumblebee now and again but am concerned that they are not thriving as before. Do you know anyone who can shed light on what is being done to ensure the sustainability of bumblebees?

    A concerned bee lover.

    Reply
    • Hilary

      I don’t think much is being done to protect bumble bees sadly. Many bumble bee species are in decline across the world. I always encourage people to plant native pollinator plants to help.

      Reply
  6. Morgan

    After learning that carpenter bees can sting, I didn’t even realize there were any true stingless bees until I read this post! Very cool info – I may have to buy your book as a gift for my beekeeping grandad.

    Reply
  7. Robert

    Hello, am I mistaken, but I used to collect stingless bees in California in the early 70’s. I used to catch them by hand and never got stung. They had a particular pattern on their backs, can’t remember exactly what is was right now, but they were in the same flowers as regular bees.

    Reply
    • Hilary

      There are other species of bees that rarely sting. They don’t live in colonies but sometimes nest next door to each other. You might be thinking of mining bees.

      Reply
  8. ryan

    nice facts.

    Reply
  9. Sue

    Is it possible to set up an inclusive for the bees that would keep them warm in the winter months and raise them in the united States ? I have an area that I heat and keep plants in with a heat lamp and grow tropical flowers all year long. Would they do well there?

    Reply
    • Hilary

      Look up Slovenian style hives. They have a system sort of like this.

      Reply
  10. Caxton kimiti

    Hi…Am a Kenyan.Love the way bee work.I do bee keeping.i wish to learn more in this forum.thx

    Reply
  11. Hatem

    They exist in Libya too; we had a colony in our home for years until my father decided to cut the tree, it was unbelievable how many bee species living and flying over that tree, not exactly a tree but long and giant Basil shrubs covering our home wall.

    Reply
  12. Unknown

    this didnt give me facts it gave me facts about other bees…..
    JK THIS WAS AMAZING THANNK YOU!

    Reply
  13. David mah

    In North Carolina Charlotte if greenhouses are used , any opportunity/ possibility to keep stingless bees? Would they survive/thrive?? Thk you.

    Reply
    • Hilary

      I don’t think we are permitted to import them.

      Reply
    • Ron Smith

      David, There is a good deal of experimentation goin on with using stingless bees in greenhouses at present. You might check with Dr. Stephen Buchmann at Arizona State as he is an expert on the subject.

      I too am exploring the possibility of keeping these worthy little bees. Problem is, I am further north than you and would have to protect them. When complete, my greenhouse will be twenty feet square (in the first section). One of these hives should be able to fit. The trouble will be in keeping it warm enough for them. Growing flowers year round will be the biggest bonus of this. As it is, my growing season varies wildly depending on the ocean currents. During an El Nino year we have a six to nine month growing season, La Ninia will reduce that to four or five months. This greenhouse will give me a longer and more buffered growing season. That is to say, it will buffer our 100+ summers and below zero to single digit winters. Maybe even year-round tomatoes!! #;~D

      Reply

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My name is Hilary Kearney. I’m the author of the book, “Queenspotting” and founder of the urban beekeeping business Girl Next Door Honey in San Diego, California. I’m an artist turned beekeeper on a mission to help new beekeepers succeed and educate the public about the magic of bees!

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