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Aussie Bee Investigates a
New Australian Stingless Bee,
Found in the Rainforest of Far North Queensland
-- by Anne Dollin --

Written in December 2012; Updated in February 2013

Aussie Bee Homepage > New Native Bee Photos > Cincta Stingless Bees

We recently identified a new species of stingless bee, Austroplebeia cincta, that had not been documented before in Australia! So in November 2012 Aussie Bee embarked on a special native bee safari to far north Queensland to thoroughly research this species.

You may like to read the two detailed articles on this new species that we have just added to Aussie Bee Online. Meanwhile, take a look at some of the fascinating photographs and videos we captured of this unique new species!

Like to see more? Visit our Aussie Bee Website Facebook page
to see more photos of these beautiful new bees.

We studied fifteen nests located on a cattle station belonging to the Roberts family near Cooktown. Lewis, Edith and Charlie Roberts gave us tremendous support in our research. Their expert bush skills and in depth knowledge of the local flora and fauna were invaluable in our work!

Above: Anne Dollin of Aussie Bee with Charlie and Lewis Roberts.

The workers of this new species, Austroplebeia cincta, are tiny -- only 3.4 mm long. They have striking bright yellow markings on the face and thorax.

Austroplebeia cincta workers

Above: these brightly marked Austroplebeia cincta worker bees were enjoying a free feed of native bee honey from a honey feeder sponge.

These bees look particularly pretty peeping out of their nest entrance tunnels! Lewis Roberts has known about them since he was a boy. He calls them 'The Pretty Ones.'

cincta entrance

Above: Austroplebeia cincta bees can build entrance tunnels very quickly! This tunnel was built in a few hours by a colony that we boxed during our research trip.

Like all the other Austroplebeia, this species builds resinous tunnels as nest entrances. However, this species builds the longest free-standing entrance tunnels we have ever seen in an Australian stingless bee nest. Aggressive green ants were harassing many colonies of these bees. The bees were extending their entrance tunnels with fine meshes of very sticky resin to keep the green ants out. The bees kept adding more and more resin all day to their tunnels; so the tunnels kept getting longer and longer!

cincta tunnel
Austroplebeia cincta tunnel
Above: This Austroplebeia cincta nest had built a 17 cm long tunnel with a sticky end.

Left: This Austroplebeia cincta nest had the longest free-standing entrance tunnel we had seen in Australia. It was 43 cm long!

If you look closely you can see a few green ants near the end of this tunnel.

The brood comb (where the eggs are laid) of Austroplebeia cincta has a special structure. It is very different from that built by any other Australian Austroplebeia species.
-- In all the other species (eg Austroplebeia australis) the brood cells are built in a loosely connected pile called a cluster (see photographs in our Booklet 4).
-- However, in this new species, Austroplebeia cincta, the newest brood cells are waxed closely together into single layer sheets.

Austroplebeia cincta brood

Above: The most recently built group of brood cells in an Austroplebeia cincta nest. The cells are waxed tightly together into a layer that is one cell thick.

The honeypots and pollen pots of the Austroplebeia cincta nest were tissue paper thin -- delicate and fragile. They were built in small clusters near the edges of the nest.

Austroplebeia cincta pollen pots

Above: the pollen pots (upper left) and honey pots (lower right) in an Austroplebeia cincta nest.

The queen bee could regularly be seen patrolling the brood. Her massive abdomen was swollen with eggs.

Austroplebeia cincta queen

Above: the massive Austroplebeia cincta queen surveying her brood comb, watched by some worker bees.

In all other Austroplebeia species, the male bees are more colourful than the worker bees. However, to our surprise we found that the males of Austroplebeia cincta were much darker than the workers and lacked the bright yellow mark on the rear edge of the thorax. This is unique within this genus.

Austroplebeia cincta drone

Look at the rear edge of the thorax in these bees, marked by the red arrows in these photos. The Austroplebeia cincta male (above) lacks the bright yellow marking that is plainly seen on the worker bee (below). You can also see the particularly long antennae that all stingless bee males have.

Austroplebeia cincta worker

We hope you have enjoyed this 'sneak peek' at our photos and videos of this spectacular new Australian species. Please also read our full report about these beautiful native stingless bees and see some dramatic new photos of the queen laying her eggs - in Aussie Bee Online Articles 22 and 23.

Like to see more? Visit our Aussie Bee Website Facebook page
to see more photos of these beautiful new bees!

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Author: Anne Dollin
(See Anne Dollin's Google+ profile)

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PO Box 74, North Richmond NSW 2754, Australia