Australia has an amazing array of native bees and is home to around 2,000 species of native bees.
Although they are not used in honey production, native bees play a vital part of Australia’s unique flora and provide valuable pollination for our unique bush. Infact some native bees are the only known pollinators of certain native plants.
Most Australian bees are solitary creatures and only a few live in colonies similar to the European honey bee with a queen, infertile female worker bees and male drones which fertilise the queens. Having evolved in the more temperate climate in Australia, solitary native bees mostly have year round supply of nectar and pollen sources so have not evolved to store excess honey for the winter months. Generally solitary bees live and raise their young in burrows in the ground or in tiny hollows in trees.
Lets take a look at some native bees you may see in your garden:
Blue Banded Bee
Are named from the beautiful blue bands that run across their abdomen. There are eleven species of documented blue-banded bees in Australia ranging in size from 8-14 mm.
They are solitary insects and are found Australia wide, except Tasmania. Blue banded bees are one of a few native Australian bee species that perform a particular type of pollination known as Buzz Pollination, a process where they bang their head at an incredible 350 times a second to release the pollen from flowers. Next time you see a Blue Banded Bee visiting a flower in your garden, listen closely for the distinctive buzz.
There are eight species of carpenter bees found in Australia which fall into the 2 groups of carpenter: Xylocopa (Koptortosoma) and Xylocopa (Lestis). Species in the subgenus Lestis are metallic green in colour, as in the image below:Carpenter bees are generally found in the tropical regions of country in Northern Territory, Queensland and northern parts of New South Wales and Western Australia. Unlike the vast majority of native Australia bees which are solitary, Carpenter bees are referred to as ‘para-social’ as multi generations of females will occupy the same nest.
Teddy Bear Bee
Amegilla bombiformis, more commonly known as the teddy bear bee, would have to be the cutest Australian native bee. They get their name from the golden brown fur on their bodies.
They are solitary bees and nest in shallow nests in the soil or earth, such as creek banks. Similar to the blue banded bee, these bees are also buzz pollinators. They are found mostly on the east coast of Australia, in Queensland, New South Wales and also Victoria.
Cuckoo bees are master of deceit. They do not build their own nests but similar to the Cuckoo birds, Cuckoo bees lay their eggs in other bees' nests.
The Thyreus Cuckoo Bee belong to the Apidae family, range in size from 10-13 mm long and can be found Australia-wide, except in Tasmania.
How you can help our native Australian bees
The best way you can help protect our native bees is by creating a beautiful, diverse flower garden. Bees need flowers, so gardens with abundant flowers of a mix of species, with something flowering at different times of the year will provide all bees with a year round food source. Also avoid using pesticides or insecticides in your garden, which can also kill bees or other beneficial insects.
Not only are they fascinating to observe, native bees play a vital role in the ecosystem and are vital pollinators of Australia's unique and diverse flora. So next time you are out in your garden, keep an eye out for one of our amazing native bees!
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