Parliament House in Canberra has gained a new community of native bees, following an invitation to Sunshine Coast start-up Hive Haven to install one of their innovative hives in the nation’s capital. With the support of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tony Smith, the hive, will be located in the Speakers Courtyard at Parliament House during Canberra’s warmer months from September to April which will help draw attention to the increasing importance of farming native bees as pollinators for our future crops.

Hive Haven Managing Director Ann Ross said, “the opportunity is a dream come true. It’s hard to think about it, without becoming emotional.”

The innovative native bee hives, developed by Ann and Jeff Ross, will help Australian native stingless bees survive increasing heatwaves and enable the harvesting of native bee honey. Manufactured by rotational moulding on the Sunshine Coast, the hives are unique in that they have a hollow insulation cavity which can be filled with a gel which enables the hive to maintain a stable temperature. The company is also trialling cold weather hives which feature a small heater located in the cavity.

Federal Member for Fisher Andrew Wallace said, “Ann and Jeff have designed and manufactured a fantastic new product right here in our community with real applications for the future of agriculture all over Australia. This is another great example of the Sunshine Coast leading the way and I cannot wait to point out and explain the hive to my fellow MPs when I get back to Parliament House.

Member for Fairfax Ted O’Brien applauded the Sunshine Coast start up for inventing a solution to the global decline in food crop pollination. “Our very survival as humans depends on bees pollinating crops and the Australian native stingless bee is gaining a reputation as an effective pollinator,” said Mr O’Brien.  “This innovative insulated hive means native bees will be able to survive in hot and cold locations where in the past they may have perished. Given the pressure on honey bees around the world, this hive may spark interest in native bees which have been around since the age of dinosaurs.”

Cormac Farrell,  Chief Bee Keeper, Australian Parliament House, is looking forward to the official unveiling of the hive at 1pm on Saturday the 6th of October, during Parliament House’s 30th anniversary Open Day.  ‘’I am so happy that we are bringing Australian Native Stingless bees to Parliament.  While honeybees are an essential part of Australia’s agricultural infrastructure, they tend to get all the press, whereas we also have so many amazing native bees.  I always wanted to strike a balance between showcasing honeybees and native bees, so when Andrew Wallace MP asked if we could include Hive Haven in what we are doing at Parliament I was really supportive.

I love the ethos that Hive Haven bring to their business, combining innovation with a passion for promoting our native pollinators, both for home use and as an alternative to commercial honeybee pollination in agriculture.  Their hive design is also really different and clever, very keen to see how it performs in Canberra.’’

Hive Haven is a member of the Innovation Centre which is based at the University of the Sunshine Coast. The specific hive which will be moved to Parliament House on 5 October will be taken from the Innovation Centre butterfly garden.

Innovation Centre CEO Mark Paddenburg says, ‘’it will be such an inspiration to see Innovation Centre member and Sunshine Coast start-up Hive Haven display its product in the Canberra Capital. It’s a perfect example of the kind of innovation happening up here in Queensland.”

USC Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research and Innovation, Professor Roland De Marco congratulated Ann Ross on her continued success.

“Ann and her husband Jeff, are doing a fabulous job, as evidenced by the Sunshine Coast Business Award they won in 2015 and the Queensland Regional Achievement Award they won in 2016, and we are proud that she is taking her idea and technology to the world. Their business, Hive Haven, is a perfect example of the Innovation Centre Sunshine Coast providing the opportunity for the commercialisation of an innovative idea of one of our students.” he said.

“There are a lot of lecturers, researchers and engineers at USC who have donated their time to get this native bee hive up and running,” said Ann Ross. “I attribute a lot of Hive Haven’s success to tapping into the overall Sunshine Coast start-up ecosystem. It’s been a huge community effort with a global reach.”

Ann would like to see native bee farming taken seriously as a viable agri-business (pollination, honey and propolis). Honey bees (apis mellifera) are facing increasing pressure. Governments and food producers around the globe are turning their attention to the native bee as the pollinator of the world’s future food crops. Native bees also produce small quantities of honey which Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders have used as a food and medicine source for tens of thousands of years.

According to Ann, “You don’t need to be a large land holder to farm native bees in fact, studies are indicating native bees thrive in urban environments.”

Hive Haven received an Advance Queensland Ignite Grant in 2017 which partly funded the development of their initial product. More research is needed but their breakthroughs to date are significant.