Thanks for the info Anne, and with all due respect, I disagree, although in the same breath you could well be correct.
I've been trying to piece together some of our early history and had noted that Eyre and Bunce were the people who appear to have first recorded the story of how aboriginal people track bees back to their hive, surprisingly they both arrived in Hobart on the "Ellen" on March 2, 1833.
I havn't tracked down Eyre's version yet but Bunce relocated to Australia Felix (now the state of Victoria) in 1839 only 5 years after the second attempt at establishing a colony here and immediately took off for a casual stroll over to Western Port Bay with a band of aboriginal people and it was on this trip that he records his version
...A hive of native bees had been discovered by one of the children -- a yan yean, or boy -- who had caught one of the little insects, not much larger than a musquito, while dipping its little proboscis into the blossom of a native honysuckle, Banksia, extracting from the nectaries of the flower its sweet juices. The little fellow caught and marked by the boy with a feather-like seed of a composite plant, and following to its home in a neighboring gum tree; thus betraying the little industious comunity of which it formed a member. The boy returned to the camp, and communicated the result of his discovery, when two large hollow sheets of bark were procured, thus forming bowls, which were carried to the tree and speedily filled with pure honey.
The native bees are very small, half the size of a common house-fly, and are stingless.
Regretably Bunce was a botanist not an entomologist, otherwise he might have described the insect, Bunce had spent 6 years in Tasmania describing the plants there then shortly after moving to Victoria was employed by Ludwig Leichhardt as the expedition botanist on the second failed attempt to cross the continent from east to west. (We all think we know how the third failed attempt ended however, I was surprised)
I had held off on this till now because I didn't know earlier on which of his may explorations, Bunce had observed this, but recently I managed to track down one of his books and was finally able to confirm the story.
So now I'm left wondering if there is a native bee still out there, or if this bee has now been displaced by its European cousins and ofcourse what the beastie looked like.
I have to admit here that as far as I am concerned Bunce was a hero of Australian ethnobotany and was clearly one of the few who really tried to get to know aboriginal culture and understand and record their knowledge.
His major work has just recently become available again, only the second time since its first print in 1859, I got a copy of the second edition and only half way through it but if you like that kind of stuff then this rates very highly