as part of the work on my “bee” theme, and as part of the closing assignment for “Year of the Fairy Tale” illustration class I’ve been taking this year, to learn more painting techniques, I’m doing an illustration for a Fairy Land zine on magic animals. of course I chose the bee. but as “bee” was already taken, I decided to be more specific and chose the “Australian sugarbag bee” aka Tetragonula Carbonaria bee, which is one of the native bees of Australia. this is a stingless bee, though it can give you a bite instead.
collating info here about the sugarbag bee as part of my research. another Australian bee I like is the blue-banded bee. there are a number of coloured bees native to Australia, which are different to the introduced yellow coloured honey bee that everyone is used to seeing.
for the illustrated page, I need to write a line about why this is a magic sugarbag bee, and draw a matching picture.
Australian bee websites:
Sugarbag Bees blog http://www.sugarbag.net
Sugarbag Bees facebook page https://www.facebook.com/sugarbagbees
Aussie Bee http://www.aussiebee.com.au
Kin Kin Native Bees http://www.nativebees.com.au
Australian Native Bees http://www.australiannativebees.com
Native Bees http://www.zabel.com.au
Native Bee Sanctuary http://www.nativebeesanctuary.com.au/sugarbag-honey
Blue Banded Bees blog http://blog.adonline.id.au/blue-banded-bees
general Australian bee articles:
Which native bees are in your area http://www.aussiebee.com.au/beesinyourarea.html
ABC Creature Features on native bees http://www.abc.net.au/creaturefeatures/facts/ep5_petfacts.htm
Stingless bee rescue (ABC) http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2003/05/08/2045526.htm
“Unlike a hive of honey bees, which can produce 75 kilograms of honey a year, a hive of stingless bees produces less than one kilogram. Stingless bee honey also has a distinctive bush taste – a mix of sweet and sour with a hint of lemon. The taste comes from plant resins – which the bees use to build their hives and honey pots – and varies depending on the flowers and trees visited.” (note, European honeybees don’t use resin in their hives, but the Australian native bees do. some call this resin the sugarbag, others call the whole hive – bees, honey, brood and resin the sugarbag)
The sweetest gifts http://www.thechronicle.com.au/news/the-sweetest-gifts/2097617/
Bite to the death: Sugarbag bees launch all-conquering raids http://ephshonorsbioblogfoley.blogspot.com.au/2014/10/bite-to-death-suga…
Australian Native Bees and the European Honey Bee http://astro-calendar.com/shtml/Research/indigenousbees.shtml
Is there a pollination crisis (USA article )https://standingoutinmyfield.wordpress.com/2013/11/30/is-there-a-pollina…
the sugarbag bee creates a spiral brood – sometimes it doesn’t get the spiral perfect, but it is a beautiful pattern.
Stingless bees have been shown to be valuable pollinators of crops such as macadamias, mangos, watermelons and lychees. They may also benefit strawberries, citrus, avocados and many others.
The Meaning of Sugarbag
Sugarbag is honey made by Australian native stingless bees; sugarbag has its own special flavour and is a highly prized food of the Jawoyn people who hunted it from wild nests; it’s real bush tucker! It has formed an important part of the Jawoyn diet and was the sweetest and one of the most favored bush foods. The Jawoyn term for honey is Wam. Ancient artwork centuries old can be found on Jawoyn land depicting the types of animals, fish and food available in the surrounding area including the site “Sugarbag Dreaming”.
‘Sugarbag’ is an indigenous term, incorporating everything related to honey, including stingless bees.
Of the 1,600 species of wild bees native to Australia, about 14 are stingless. All are small (3 – 5 mm) and black in colour, with hairy extended hind legs for carrying nectar and pollen; because of the latter, they are sometimes mistaken for bumblebees.
The Yolngu world is divided into two separate moieties (or broad kinship groups): Dhuwa and Yirritja. Two types of stingless bee that are particularly significant to the Yolngu of Northeast Arnhem Land are the Yirritja birrkuda and the Dhuwa yarrpany.
Both sugarbag complexes have their own set of songs, dances, power names and sacred objects as they are derived from the essences of different ancestral beings.
Sugarbag Dreaming art:
Janet Forrester Ngala http://aboriginalartpaintings.com/sugar-bag-dreaming
Phyllis Thomas http://desertriversea.com.au/state-art/78
Barney Ellaga http://www.aboriginalartstore.com.au/artists/barney-ellaga/sugarbag-2/
Rosie Ngwarraye Ross http://ampilatwatja.com/artwork/488-13/24/ (this “sugarbag” is the nectar from the big yellow flowers of the “tarrkarr” trees)
Josie Kunoth Petyarre – “Sugar Bag Story” http://www.waterhouse.samuseum.sa.gov.au/gallery/2014/sugar–bag–story
Lucy Ward http://henryfskerritt.com/tag/sugarbags
“This sense of connectivity can be seen even more clearly in Lucy Ward’s signature image of ngara (the sugarbag). Ngara refers to the honey made by the stingless native bees. There are two types of bees native to the north-west Kimberley, the tree-dwelling bee (Waningga) and those that build their hives in rocks (Namri). Ngara is an important totem for Lucy Ward – not only was she born in Ngarangarri (the land of the Honey Dream), but according to Ward, she was also born under the shade of a sugarbag tree. Along with the image of the Wandjina, the sugarbag has been one of Ward’s defining motifs. However, whilst Ward’s depictions of Wandjina have remained relatively unchanging – undoubtedly due to the sacred nature of the image – the sugarbag has provided her with a motif of incredible flexibility. Over her diverse artistic career, it has been an endlessly malleable aesthetic form, in which she has found a seemingly boundless array of conceptual and aesthetic variations. Ward’s gallery representative, Dr Diane Mossenson, notes with amazement Ward’s “capacity for artistic re-invention. Unlike many Aboriginal artists who paint a limited number of images, Lucy has remained strong to her stories, but she continually recreates the imagery, finding new ways to express her stories.””
“Like the cave paintings of sugarbags, Ward’s earliest depictions show the sugarbag motif as distinct, individual objects. Each honey pod is depicted as an irregular square or circle filled with coloured dots. Sometimes these squares or circles are sub-divided, while in other cases they are not. In late 2005, however, a major development began to occur in Ward’s portrayal of sugarbags. The sugarbag became an increasingly open signifier, whose individual unity slowly disappeared. In her most recent works, such as the monumental diptych Ngara (Sugarbag) Story 2008, exhibited at the Arthur Guy Memorial Art Prize, any sense of this indivisible unity has been shattered in favour of an all-over dotting that covers the canvas in a pulsating invocation of the aerial landscape.”
“Despite these external prompts, however, Ward’s development has shown a clear and uniquely personal epistemic trajectory. In the paintings of Lucy Ward, each mark upon the canvas is like a fingerprint, betraying the trace of its creator’s movement. In painting her ancestral homelands, her marks revel her ownership of the country, like footprints in a landscape that she has traversed by foot, understood instinctively and known intimately. But just like a footprint, they exist as the memory of presence, a nostalgic echo of past travels.”
“In the wake of colonial incursion, elders like Ward cannot live on their traditional lands, but return only occasionally to tend to the country of which they are the sacred custodians. Returning to her sacred sites, Ward sings out to the spirits, warning them of her arrival. Her song echoes through the stony ridges and it is as though she is a young woman again. It is this memory of the landscape that reveals itself in Ward’s paintings. Each mark connects Ward to her landscape, making her one with the Dreams, songs and topography of her land of honey.”
“In this context, the sugarbag is a profound tripartite symbol for the personal (as Ward’s totem), the physical (the bush honey pod) and the spatial (Ngarangarri country: the land of the sugarbag dream). In shattering the individual unity of the sugarbag – literally opening it up – Ward fuses these three categories. Rather than fingerprints, the dots meld into a pointillist landscape that shimmers into being with a cosmological unity.”
“These seemingly abstract shapes thus become a complex metaphor for the inter-relationship of identity, culture and country. They are part of a sacred and personal geography that Marcia Langton has termed ‘placedness.’ For Ward, the past is not, as L.P. Hartley has famously suggested, ‘a foreign country’, but rather a familiar country that situates and unites all moments in time. Ward’s paintings become what Langton has described as “site markers of the remembering process and of identity itself.” They inhabit a temporality that is neither past, present nor future, but part of the sacred link that connects Lucy Ward to the timeless Ngarrangarni.”
sugarbag Dreamtime stories
How the Kangaroos got their Tails! http://393960104288492382.weebly.com/dreamtime-stories.html
Geographic Cosmology: The Art of Lucy Ward http://henryfskerritt.com/tag/sugarbags
(this page is an extended text of the article, “Geographic Cosmology: The Art of Lucy Ward” published in Craft Arts International, no.78, 2010, pp.34-39)
“According to [Lucy] Ward, in the Ngarrangarni, this Wandjina broke with traditional law, and took another man’s promised wife. This angered the man’s family, who pursued him across the country, seeking to punish him for this indiscretion. They finally caught him in Ngarangarri country, where he was beaten, speared and killed. From his prostrate body rose the sugarbag trees, making Ngarangarri country the land of honey. It is a powerful story of the connection of all things. In death there is creation; in punishment there is redemption; in the bitterness of tears, the sweetness of honey.”
DH[david hudson]: In my grandmother’s country, when folks heard the sugar bag, little native bees humming inside a log, they thought it was someone playing the didjeridu. But it was the sugarbag busily working making honey inside the tree. So the sugarbag led people to the didjeridu.
song & poetry
“Wama-Dupun” (Sugarbag and hollow log) in “Speaking the Earth’s Languages: A Theory for Australian-Chilean Postcolonial Poetics” by Stuart Cooke (page 122)
Kumbaingiri Billy’s Story from Oscar and Lucinda
We thought they were dead men. They climbed hills and chopped down trees. They did not cut down the trees for sugar bag. There was no sugar bag in the trees they chopped. They left the trees Iying on the ground. They cut these trees so they could make a map. They were surveying with chains and theodolites, but we did not understand what they were doing. We saw the dead trees. Soon other white men came and ring-barked the trees. At that time we made a song:
Where are the bees which grew on these plains?
The spirits have removed them.
They are angry with us.
They leave us without firewood when they are angry.
They’ll never grow again.
We pine for the top of our woods,
but the dark spirit won’t send them back.
The spirit is angry with us.
Sugarbag Dreaming: the significance of bees to Yolngu in Arnhem Land, Australia by Natasha Fijn (PDF)
AUSTRALIAN BEE LORE AND BEE CULTURE INCLUDING THE INFLUENCE OF BEES ON CROPS AND THE COLOUR OF FLOWERS AND ITS INFLUENCE ON BEE LIFE. BY ALBERT GALE 1912
includes the introduction of bees to Australia
By Hannah Rachel Bell
Changing Climate (PDF)
Sugarbag Dreaming by Natasha Fijn
Native Australian Stingless Bees Fighting Swarm – Trigona Carbonaria – Sugarbag Bees
The Australian Native Bee Research Centre tells us that:
There are over 1,500 species of “true blue” Australian native bees.
Commercial honey bees (Apis mellifera) are not native to Australia. They were introduced from Europe in about 1822.
Australian native bees can be black, yellow, red, metallic green or even black with blue polka dots! They can be fat and furry, or sleek and shiny.
Australia’s smallest native bee is Cape York’s minute Quasihesma bee. It is less than 2 mm long.
Australia’s largest native bee is the Great Carpenter Bee of the tropical north and northern NSW. It is up to 24 mm long.
Most Australian bees are solitary bees which raise their young in burrows in the ground or in tiny hollows in timber.
Australia also has 10 species of social native bees (genera Trigona and Austroplebeia) which do not sting!
Stingless bee honey is a delicious bush food and stingless bees can be good crop pollinators. So stingless beekeeping is becoming increasingly popular.
Native bees are also important pollinators of Australia’s unique wildflowers and are a vital part of our Australian bushland.