Backyard bee keepers are being asked to spy on the stingless native variety in a bid to unravel their mysterious sex lives.
Native bees are essential workers when it comes to pollinating Australia's indigenous plants and wildflowers, but scientists know far more about the reproductive habits of introduced species.
Queensland University researchers hope to change that by recruiting an amateur army willing to monitor hives on their farms, gardens or schoolyards.
"It's as easy as watching a hive's entrance for three minutes a week and recording information about bee behaviour," researcher Tobias Smith said.
One of the mysteries he wants to solve is how native stingless bees set up new colonies.
"When European honey bees want to create a new colony they send off a big swarm of bees; half the bees from a colony with the queen, and they fly off to find a new place to nest," Dr Smith said.
"Back at the old place a princess takes over with the other half of the bees. Now that's big, obvious and dramatic."
But Dr Smith said the process with native bees was difficult to study because the process was less clear-cut.
"It is a much more cryptic process where bees travel back and forth to the new colony site over many weeks or months," he said.
Instead of the queen leaving to set up a colony, as is the case with European honey bees, native stingless bee queens can't fly - and instead a princess daughter must venture out to establish a new base.
"We know really basic things about these broad differences, but all the little details and how often this happens we know pretty much nothing about," Dr Smiths said.
To join the Native Bee Citizen Science Project visit https://biological-sciences.uq.edu.au/engagement/native-bee-citizen-science-project
Australian Associated Press
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