An Incinerator for a Home

We are keepers of Trigona Carbonaria Native Bees. My wife Janine and I are suppliers of hives for pollination or pleasure. We currently keep approximately 80 hives and are always on the lookout for hives in trouble. We are often able to obtain hives from development land just prior to the burn off of heaped timber. Countless thousands of nests must get burnt yearly. We also obtain hives from timber cutters who save these nests. At times, we place an advertisement in the papers, wanting to buy nests. We had an advertisement in the "Wanted to Buy" column of the Brisbane "Courier Mail" sometime in October, 1995. We had one phone call! A widowed lady from the Brisbane suburb of Chelmer phoned to say that she had a nest of Native Bees in her incinerator. Mrs. Gottke said that the nest had been in her incinerator for at least 10 years. The incinerator was unused for quite some time as the Council did not permit suburban burning. She wanted the incinerator moved!

I told her that I would come and have a look. I arrived there one Saturday morning armed with all my usual gear. To my surprise, there was the Besser block incinerator. (I assume that every one knows that a Besser block is made of concrete and has two big holes through it) Mrs. Gottke was about 85 years old and of fair physical health. She didn't know much about these bees although she knew they did not sting. She lead me to the incinerator and pointed to where the bees were. I couldn't believe it! Here was the blackened entrance of Trigona Carbonaria nearly at ground level. This was a powerful nest. It is extraordinary to think that in 1974, the great flood was 2.5 metres over this nest. I am not sure how long the nest had been there for, so maybe they came after the flood!

I bent down to have a close look at the incinerator. It was one of these ready to assemble hardware store types that required no mortaring together. It was square in plan and stood about 1.2 metres tall with a chimney as well. It was built by first placing a layer of blocks dug into the ground. Then a floor slab was placed on top of this layer, followed by successive layers of blocks. You would never guess where the nest was. It was obvious that if the incinerator was alight, the nest would have melted. The nest was under that ground slab living in the hollow blocks below ground level. I dismantled the entire incinerator down to the slab. I organized my gear, got my box ready and made some room for the special moment.

I lifted the slab slowly. Ants were running everywhere. I couldn't believe my eyes. There was the nest in three different hollows. Talk about honey and pollen; it was everywhere! How was I to get this nest out? Each hollow was full of the nest. One hollow had the entire brood nest, while the other two had the stores of honey and pollen. My best bet was to get the pieces out without too much damage. My hammer came in handy. The concrete blocks, when hit in the right place, broke very easily and cleanly. It was then easy to place the pieces in the box. It was incredible, as my boxes' internal dimensions are exactly the same size as the Besser block hollows. What a good fit! As the nest was so large, I had to construct a make shift third storey using some of Mrs. Gottke's timber.

The bees went into my box so easily. It is always a good idea to place a piece of excess black nest material near the entrance. It works like a charm. I gave Mrs. Gottke a donation and made one last check before leaving. There were still bees everywhere, but they knew that they had a new home. I came to collect the hive a few days later. I taped up all joints and holes and set sail for home. What a hive! Triple storey and full of bees. By the end of the season, we split the hive and this season we have done so again.

What a hobby! We hope that you have enjoyed reading this real life drama? Maybe other readers know of unusual homes for native bees. We would love to hear from you.

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