Threats to Native Bees (Sugarbag) Project – one of the pathways of the Traditional Knowledge Revival Pathways Kuku Thaypan Fire Management Program

Key words: Traditional ecological knowledge, native stingless bees, Trigonia sp., Indigenous training, fire management

The project and its aims: From February to April 2010 the Kuku Thaypan Fire Management Research Project through the Elders’ Traditional Knowledge Revival Pathways (TKRP) in Cape York, North Queensland – extended their Indigenous led action research methodology to begin implementation of the “Threats to Native Bees (Sugarbag)” project.

One aim of this project was to design a methodology for mapping bee nesting sites (“sugarbag”) using both Traditional and non-traditional knowledge systems. Another was to assess the potential usefulness of stingless bees Trigonia sp as an indicator of biodiversity health in Woodlands.

Outputs of the action research project included two short trailers, a short case study film and a CD Rom Powerpoint Presentation outlining the project.

Shared elements of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) )and western science on sugarbag management issues affecting stingless bees included inter-relationships with flowering events and fire timing, frequency and intensity.

The final short film acts to communicate the project as a case study presenting key elements of the relationship between stingless bees, sugarbag, people and fire, while practically demonstrating land management from a grassroots community perspective.

The CD Rom Powerpoint presentation highlights key elements of the project methodology, method, challenges, achievements and findings and begins to describe the classification system as recorded by TEK and western science through the project.

Lessons learned. The potency of the training tools is that they enhance on-country training methods as they re-enforce the experience and recollection of country as close as possible to actually being there, triggering reliving of the knowledge exchange that encompasses deeper learning.

The Sugarbag project has directly assisted communities by demonstrating a structure where transfer in Traditional Knowledge occurs through culturally appropriate means. Undertaking TEK transfer in the field, while practically demonstrating knowledge through action research case studies and training in multi-media tools, provides a diverse number of outcomes beneficial to the environment and community well-being. This methodology directly empowers communities because they are implementing their own projects and control how information is shared across Australia and abroad.

Acknowledgements. Partners to the Sugarbag research project were Mulong Pty, Ltd, The Importance of Campfires Research Project, Caring for Our Country Open Grants, James Cook University Australian Tropical Forest Institute Centre for Sustainable Indigenous Communities, Charles Darwin University.

Contact: Peta-Marie Standley, Program manager, Cape York Natural Resource Management Ltd, CSIRO Atherton. PO Box 907, Atherton Q 4883, Australia. Tel: 0418 198 244, Email:

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