By CAITLIN CROWLEY
A DARLING Downs teenager is on a mission to protect Australia’s native bees, volunteering to remove and relocate rogue colonies after developing his own, award-winning “bee box” design.
A fascination with native bees runs in the family for Darcy Schmidt, but he’d never taken much interest in the tiny creatures until a chance encounter with an unusual hive at his grandparents’ Toowoomba home two years ago.
“Grandpa always had native bees – he’d always collected them and kept them in logs and brought them home and hung them up in trees when he found them on the ground or cut down a tree and there were bees in there,” Schmidt said.
“During Covid I was visiting my grandparents and I was sitting outside on a retaining wall, and I just noticed out of the corner of my eye a bunch of bees flying into the retaining wall.
“I don’t know what happened but for some reason I was like, I need to get those in a box. It suddenly sparked interest and I wanted to see what they were like in a box and if I could do it, so I just started Googling stuff.”
The year twelve boarder at Toowoomba Grammar School (TGS) started researching the best ways to safely relocate native bee hives.
The main technique he’s now using is called a “soft split” or “education”, where a box is attached to the entrance of a hive and as bees are forced through it to enter and exit, they eventually move into the box itself.
“I put a couple of boxes on grandpa’s old logs,” Schmidt said.
“I think we got the first one moved in early 2021 and that was probably the coolest thing ever. You open up the box and see what these bees have built in a couple of months.”
One of the challenges he quickly identified was fitting the box to the correct spot on a tree or log, without having to cut a hole in the tree.
“I thought what if we made some sort of arm to sit the box on, so it could slide into the tree and we wouldn’t have to worry about trying to fit it every single time,” he said.
“So we did up a prototype and that was terrible!”
He said his second version was a lot better and the judges of the TGS Young Creator of the Year competition must have agreed, awarding Schmidt’s design first prize in last year’s innovation category.
Darcy had the chance to apply his new skills close to home when a native bee hive was discovered in a tree at TGS earlier this year (pictured below).
He’s now set himself the ambitious goal of relocating or rescuing up to 160 hives in the next five years, while hopefully studying engineering at the University of Queensland in Brisbane.
“This would give me a reliable foundation for the use of native bees in fruit farm pollination, rare honey collection and further propagation and extension of the native bee industry in the future,” he said.
“I would like to offer my services for the free and safe relocation of hives that are either at-risk or in troublesome locations. Such contributions are incredible for both the conservation of stingless bees and priceless, given my own goals.”
Schmidt believes the role of native bees in pollination for agriculture is only going to increase.
“They’re better pollinators than the honey bee – especially with the Varroa mite they could become super important,” he said.
“Plus they’re native to Australia so why wouldn’t we want them everywhere and why wouldn’t we want to keep them?”
If you have a hive you’d like to have removed, you can contact Darcy via email at email@example.com.