Bees collecting resin from Norfolk Pine Tree (Araucaria heterophylla)

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Teo Lee Wei and K documented bees collecting resin from a Norfolk Island Pine Tree (Araucaria heterophylla) along Encounter Bay, Victor Harbor, South Australia in mid-July 2013. The resin was oozing from the tree trunk where branches had been trimmed off.

Australian stingless bees as well as other species regularly harvest such tree exudates known as propolis resin to be used in their nest. These may well be stingless bees – however, would appreciate if anyone can confirm or put a name to these bees. These worker bees can be seen cutting pieces off the semi-dried resin and sticking them to their pollen basket found on their hind legs.

Returning to the hive, the propolis would be passed on to those bees that were making use of it. It would then be mixed with wax or sometimes with their own saliva in order to make it more malleable.

The propolis resin has antibacterial and antifungal properties, thus its presence in the nest helps keep the bees healthy. It is also used to mummify dead intruders too big to remove from the nest like lizards, rats, mice, large insects and even butterflies. Since the resin is also waterproof, it is used to fill small gaps and cracks that may allow predators to enter the nest. Larger gaps are usually sealed with beeswax. The resin is also used to smoothen the walls of cells that are used to store eggs laid by the queen.

Teo Lee Wei and K
Singapore
February 2014

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