The Secret Life of Native Bees

When you think of a bee most of us picture a typical honeybee, buzzing around the beehive busy making honey and collecting pollen for the colony.

However this is just one of the many 20,000 species worldwide…

Not all bees are black and yellow and most don’t even produce honey. Many native bees are solitary and only live in small groups when raising their young. Native bees come in all different shapes and sizes, Australia is home to over 1600 different species. These Aussie bees range from 2mm to 24mm and can be metallic blue stripped, orange and fluffy or even red polka dotted. Australia is also home to 11 types of stingless bees and most are only seen in the warmer months or temperatures above 18 degrees celcius.

Like the honeybee, native bees fly from flower to flower collecting nectar and spreading pollen. They are responsible for much of our biodiversity and native wildlife and many could be useful for crop pollination.


Blue Banded Bee

blue-banded-bee
The blue banded Bee by Steven Riding

The blue banded bees range from 8mm to 13mm and are named after their metallic blue fur. Found mostly in tropical climates these bees are native to Australia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, East Timor, Malaysia and India.

The Blue Banded Bee unlocks pollen through a process called buzz pollination. 8% of the world flowering plants such as tomatoes, kiwis and blueberries hold pollen within tight tubes which require a fast vibration to release it. However not all bees can perform this unique task, not even the commercial honeybees.

Groups of males are sometimes seen clinging to a grass stem at night. To attract these bees to your garden plant Lavender, mountain devil (Lambertia formosa) and grey spider flower (Grevillea buxifolia).


Teddy Bear Bee

The teddy bear bee is light brown and furry. It can reach 18mm in length and is also solitary. These bees often borrow in soft soil under houses and collect pollen balls for their young. Along with the blue banded bee the teddy bear bee uses its vibration power to buzz pollinate.

To attract these bees to your garden plant Senna clavigera, Hibbertia scandens, Hardenbergia, chocolate lily and many more.


Stingless Bee

stingless bee
Stingless Bee Hive in Sydney

These little black bees are one of the few native bees to live socially and produce honey. They average 4mm long and are found in warm areas ranging from Western Australian to the Northern Territory and from Queensland and the north costal areas of NSW.

Stingless bees are proven successful pollinators of mangos, macadamias and watermelons. Stingless bees may also benefit strawberries, citrus fruit and avocados.

They usually nest inside hollow trees but in northern areas they also nest in urban situations such as inside wall cavities or underneath concrete footpaths… you can even farm them!

There are plenty of native flowers you can plant to attract these bees and many more pollinators to your garden. Native Australian pants such as brachyscome, callistemon (bottlebrush), eucalyptus, leptospermum polygalifolium (lemon Scented Tea Tree) will grow easy and look beautiful!

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