ABC Rural / By Kim Honan Posted Wednesday 3 August 2016 at 10:54am

Organic avocado farmer Michael Hogan checks one of his 80 native bee hives on his orchard in northern NSW.(

ABC Rural: Kim Honan


The debate around local versus imported has made its way into the orchard.

A northern New South Wales avocado farmer believes native bees are better pollinators than their European cousins.

Michael Hogan has 80 hives of the stingless insects on his four-hectare organic orchard at Rous, east of Lismore.

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Duration: 3 minutes 48 seconds3m 48s

New South Wales avocado farmer Michael Hogan believes that native bees are the better crop pollinator.(ABC Rural: Kim Honan)Download 1.7 MB

“I got into native bees in about 2004 and then I just bought a few and bought a few more and then just started splitting my own,” he said.

He has been splitting the hives, a method used propagate the native bees, every two years.

“Some guys split them a bit more often than that but I’ve got them solely for the pollination now rather than sourcing any honey from them, which is another lucrative little sideline if you wanted to go down that,” he said.

“I find that they are very beneficial for pollination and you can actually see the trees in the surrounding area, where the native bees have been, that they do a really good job in pollinating.

“I also have some ordinary European bees.

“They’re brought in by a guy, and they pollinate here too but we did a test and a lot of them jump the fence and go chasing the macadamias.”

Native bees tiny size makes them better at pollinating

Mr Hogan said the native bees are the better at pollinating the avocado flowers because of their size.

“The flower itself is so tiny and the bees are so tiny,” he said.

“They look like little black flies and when people come out to the farm, they swat them around and you think ‘don’t kill them’.

“You also lose a few to bees, a few to birds and spiders too; the spiders just love hanging around the hive.”

Avocado farmer Michael Hogan has 80 native bee hives spread over his 4-hectare orchard at Rous in northern NSW.(ABC Rural: Kim Honan)

Without a year-round crop to pollinate in the orchard, the bees have to be moved in the off-season.

“You need that continual biodiversity for them,” he said.

“I’ve put in a few other trees and I’ve got native frangipanis, and I’ve got magnolias, and I’ve got a lot of different trees that flower off and on during the year, but they still need that biodiversity.”

Other farmers begin to see value in native bees

It can cost in excess of $400 to buy a native hive but Mr Hogan keeps the costs down by making his own.

“The materials in the ones I’m making are nearly $200 for the roof, and the fittings and the cedar,” he said.

Other fruit and nut farmers are also using native bees to pollinate their crops.

“There are a lot of orchardists out there that have one or two,” he said.

“There are a couple of native bee growers. I don’t call them apiarists because really, we’re not chasing the honey, they’re breeding them, particularly to lease to people for a month.

“They bring in 40 or 50 hives and put them in the macadamia orchard or mangoes or blueberries and then they take them out again, and they seem to be doing very well with them.”