The Sugar Bag Project was a important study focused on preserving land in order to protect the habitat of the Australian Native Bee in Cape York, North Queensland.
Kuku-Thaypan Elder, Tommy George worked with biological scientists in a study of the native bee, comparing knowledge on the species type and how bees are managed in the environment. Findings demonstrated that sugar bag (wild honey) is not as plentiful as it used to be, and the realisation that current land management practices play an important part in that concern of its disappearance. Traditional Owners from the Lama Lama clan supported the project.
Prior to colonization, Indigenous people harvested sugar bag as one of the most important food sources for community well-being. All over the country there are hundreds of trees scared by the process of harvesting honey in a process that perserved the tree and nest, while retaining the well being of both.
As a part of this project, data on scared trees in different project areas was recorded, demonstrating how plentiful the sugar bag was on country. The project survey also produced information on the number of living nests discovered - approximately six active hives. This is a clear indication that the decline on nest numbers is due to the destruction of forest ecology. Hot fires are destroying the forest canopy and disrupting flowering season patterns; flower nectare is the main food source for the native bee.
Project outcomes are to be a strong part of building new patterns for fire regimes, ultimately protecting native flora and fauna through a combination of traditional knowledge and modern science.
For more information on this project contact Cape York NRM.