Traditional beekeeping has been a practice for years. The native land owners have been harvesting honey from the bush over the years. For some, beekeeping is part of a tradition and collecting honey has been part of a routine for many generations.
Indigenous Australians used to collect honey from the native stingless bees referred to as the sugar bag honey. During ancient times, Australia did not have any honey bee species similar to the capabilities of the European Honey Bees. These Australian native bees live in colonies and produce honey from nectar like the honey bees that we know now. Further, as they are stingless, harvesting their honey were an easy task especially for the skilled ones.
Additionally, the native stingless bees are found in tropical and sub-tropical climates. This includes New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia and Northern Territory. Their honey combs are unique on its own. The bees stores it in resin oval pots unlike the hexagonal combs of the honey bees. The honey is more dark brown and richer in flavour. However, they can only produce enough honey for their own survival unlike the surplus that honey bees can do. The natives would hunt these bees down through tree holes where they would usually build their nests. The honey combs that are collected can be eaten raw and the honey is used for sustenance and medicine. This has been a practice for over a thousand years and may still be an ongoing phenomenon to those who still reside amongst the bushes!
Back when wooden beehives have yet to exist, catching a swarm includes using your bare hands t. Traditional beekeeping includes listening to the buzz of the bees while they collect nectar and pollen from flowering trees. As Aboriginals are native to the land, they have great knowledge of which native plants produce the highest quality honey. There have been many generations who have used honey as part of a natural medicine. In common native knowledge, saltwater paper bark trees contains strong medicinal components. Most beekeepers would know that one of the most common plants that the bees feast on are the eucalyptus species, jarrah and marri.
Untapped honey resources
Recently, there have been talks about a rare Leptospermum species that can produce a high grade manuka honey found in Esperance at WA. Leptospermum scoparium (manuka) are native in New Zealand and the east coast of Australia. According to research, most of the common Leptospermum species native in Australia are not found with high non-peroxide antibacterial activity that is relatively similar to Manuka honey. This newly found, rare Leptospermum species in Esperance will definitely be a game changer for Australia.
Similarly, the northern WA region such as in Kimberley has unique honey resources that have not been in the spotlight as of yet. However, the beekeeping and the honey industry has seen a rise in hobbyist in this region. One of the common products from the north is the Melaleuca Honey, one of the types of honey that Aboriginal’s have used throughout generations. Melaleuca honey is from honey myrtles that range from small shrubs to tall paperbark trees found on swamps and dry sandy plains.
To conclude, Australia has a lot of undiscovered natural resources that can be used for natural home remedies and medicines. In Western Australia alone, there are vast regions that honey researchers have yet untapped. We should definitely take advantage of the native’s knowledge on what is available from the bushes that we are not yet aware of!
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