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"hockingsi" Sugarbag bee

Scientific Name
Tetragonula hockingsi
Scientific Author
Cockerell, 1929
(Hymenoptera: Apidae: Apinae: Meliponini)

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Lateral view - female worker

Diagnostic Notes

We call these bees "Sugarbag"; however, they are better described as Australia's stingless, social honeybees.

Stingless, honey-producing bees living in social colonies with a queen, drones and thousands of workers.

Trigona carbonaria hockingsi Cockerell, T.D.A. 1929. Bees from the Australian region. American Museum Novitates 346: 1–18 [8].

Type data: Syntype(s) workers (number of specimens unknown, a specimen is labelled 'type' and has the registration number Hy/3722), Cape York, QLD.

In T. carbonaria, T. hockingsi and T. mellipes  the side of the thorax is evenly covered with fine hair.  This distinguishes them from T. clypearis and T. sapiens, in which part of the side of the thorax is shiny and sparsely haired.

Except for the body size (T. hockingsi larger) and distribution differences, there is no distinct character to separate T. carbonaria,  T. hockingsi and T. mellipes.

They have similar colouration, pilosity and male terminalia.

However, the nest architecture is fundamental to the distinction between T. carbonaria,  T. hockingsi and T. mellipes.

In T. carbonaria, the brood cells form a complete horizontal spiral comb. Normally there is no external entrance tunnel.

In T. hockingsi, the brood cells form small irregular horizontal combs. Normally there is no external entrance tunnel.

In T. mellipes, the brood cells form small irregular horizontal combs. Most nests do possess an external entrance tunnel.

Trigona hockingsi occurs in parts of NT and in northern QLD  whereas T. carbonaria mainly occurs in southern QLD and in NSW. T. mellipes occurs in NT and WA.

Trigona hockingsi  is diagnosed by:
-   Female worker body colour jet black
-   Female worker measurements= body: 4.1-4.5mm; Wing (including tegula): 4.4-4.7mm
-   Mesopleuron and metapleuron densely and evenly covered with fine, short hair
-   Malar space hirsute and relatively long
-   Mesoscutum without distinct glabrous bands

-   Male drone body colour similar to worker
-   Male measurements= body 4.0-4.4mm; wing (including tegula): 4.5-4.7mm)
-   Male hind tibia wide and flatter apically as in T. clypearis
-   Male last tergum apically rounded not beaked


Anne Dollin (pers. comm. May 2009) wrote the nesting notes.

Dollin, A.E., Dollin, L.J. & Sakagami, S.F. 1997. Australian stingless bees of the genus Trigona (Hymenoptera: Apidae). Invertebrate Taxonomy 11: 861–896

Note: The classification used here follows Michener 2007 (The Bees of the World, Second edition The John Hopkins University Press).

Rasmussen, C. and S. Cameron (2007) (A molecular phylogeny of the Old Wiorld stingless bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae: Meliponini) and the non-monophyly of the large genus Trigona. Systematic Entomology 32: 26-39) suggested that Australian species in the genus Trigona be moved into the genus Tetragonula.