Australian Native Bees

Bees are the world's great pollinators. No other insect helps plants reproduce as efficiently as bees do. Their role in the balance of the entire ecosystem is undeniable. With over 1,500 species of native bees, Australia sports an impressive pollinator repertoire. Some of them are solitary, some are social, and some are in-between. Nevertheless, all of them are fascinating.

Most Australian native bees are solitary and are non-aggressive. In fact, most of them are too small to deliver a serious sting or pose a threat (unless you’re allergic). Another important point is that as most Australian bee species are solitary they do not generally infest a property. This doesn’t mean it won’t happen - both solitary and social bees can be guilty of a bee infestation, but that’s rarely the case. In other words, if you have a bee infestation in your home, it’s probably the introduced commercial honey bees. It is not uncommon that they choose to nest in walls and sheds.

Now let’s delve into some of the native Australian bee species. Most of them are quite interesting and almost all are non-aggressive.

Species of Australian Native Bees

Blue-banded Bee (Amegilla cingulata)

Blue-banded Bee (Amegilla cingulata)

The blue-banded bee gets its name from the blue hairs on their back and abdominal areas. They are unique due to the fact the shade of blue changes when you look at it from a different angle. They can get up to 11mm in length.

Blue-banded bees are not aggressive and are solitary species native to Australia.

Cuckoo Bee (Sphecodes spp.)

Cuckoo Bee (Sphecodes spp.)

The Cuckoo bee is a native Australian bee species that, just like the bird, doesn’t create its own nest. Instead, they allow other bees to do that for them.

The Cuckoo bees wait for pollen-collecting female bees to leave their nests so that they can lay their eggs next to the host’s eggs. Their eggs usually hatch before and the larvae will eat all the nectar, then get to the pupa stage. This ensures the cuckoo bee survival but often kills the host’s brood in the process.



Image source: Flickr

Teddy Bear Bee (Amegilla bombiformis)

Teddy Bear Bee (Amegilla bombiformis)

Resembling the bumblebee in appearance and the European honeybee in size, the teddy bear bee is native to Australia. It has orange-brownish fur, from which it takes its moniker.

It is relatively easy to differentiate males from females in the number of hairless bands on their underside. If there are seven bands, you’re looking at a male. If they’re six - female. Though they’re not aggressive, they will sting if provoked.


Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Leafcutter Bee (Megachile)

Leafcutter Bee (Megachile)

Leafcutter bees are native Australian bee species that derive their name from their tireless leafcutting efforts. They incorporate the leaf fragments they manage to claim as a part of their nests. This is particularly impressive because it’s a lot of work for a solitary native Australian bee species. A distinctive feature is the enlarged mandibles that enable them to cut the leaves and gather the materials for their cloister.


Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Masked Bee (Hylaeus)

Masked Bee (Hylaeus)

One of the most exotic species of native Australian bee is the masked bee. Due to their screaming natural decoration, they attract a lot of attention. As opposed to many other solitary Australian species, they don’t usually build their nests in soil or natural burrows. Instead, they prefer wood.


Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Carpenter Bee (Xylocopinae)

Carpenter Bee (Xylocopinae)

Carpenter bees can be one of the most destructive and pestilent native Australian bee species. They tend to create tunnels in wood, which makes them a threat to your home. If there is a carpenter bee infestation, you should immediately seek professional help for these little buggers, as they can do a lot of damage quite quickly.


Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Resin Bee (Megachile sculpturalis)

Resin Bee (Megachile sculpturalis)

They’re named resin bees due to the fact they use resin and other natural sticky materials to fortify their nests. Resin bees closely resemble the material they use. Their heads and abdomens are black, with dark yellow-brown hairs on their bodies. The wings are also dark but have a degree of transparency.


Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Reed Bee (Exoneura)

Reed Bee (Exoneura)

Due to their small size, they are one of the least known native bee species in Australia. It takes great attention to detail to spot them. They are small, dark, and have elongated bodies. However, they’re still difficult to notice due to their small size.


Image source: Flickr

Stingless Social Bee (Austroplebeia)

Stingless Social Bee (Austroplebeia)

They are about 4mm long. As the name suggests, stingless social bees are both social and stingless. They are among the smallest of Australian native bees and black in colour. Stingless social bees often build their nests in the trunks of trees, but they’ve also been known to infest the walls of wooden structures. Stingless social bees produce edible honey.


Image source: Shutterstock Waldemar Manfred Seehagen

Homalictus Bee

Homalictus Bee

They are semi-social Australian native bees as many females can live in the same nest and navigate its complex structure. Despite their relatively small size (though bigger than stingless and reed bees), Homalictus bees come in a variety of different colours. They usually dig intricate nests in burrows and soil, alike.


Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Whether you want to have a bee-friendly garden or you want to avoid having bees around your home altogether, you should be aware what flowers tend to attract them. Certain plants are strongly preferred by native bees. Native plants are usually easier to grow in Australia, as it’s their origin. Planting bee forage for honeybee and native bee nutrition offers major benefits to agricultural industries through increased rates of incidental pollination.

Here are a few of the plants you can be sure will attract Australian native bees to your garden. If you want to repel bees from your garden it’s probably a good idea not to have these plants.

Lavender

Lavender is a particular favourite of the blue-banded bee. Besides, it has a lovely aroma and the colours are gorgeous, especially during “golden hour”. If you want to have beautiful blue-banded bees, as well as fantastic purple blossom, lavender is the perfect flower for you.

Cut-leaf Daisy

The idea of daisies and bees almost goes hand in hand. So it should come as no surprise the cut-leaf daisy made the… ahem... cut. These wonderful flowers are beautiful, easy to grow and they attract different native bee species. Stingless bees are particularly eager to include cut-leaf daisies in their diet, so if you want to have bees around, but dread the idea of being stung - this is a great option.

Symbolizing nobility and longevity, this lovely plant will make an excellent addition to your collection. As far as native plants that attract bees goes, this one takes the cake in its ability to gather stingless bees.Hakea Laurina

What is surprising about this plant is the large variety of shapes and sizes it comes in. It’s flexible enough to accommodate any sort of gardening needs and the high amount of nectar it produces is perfect for attracting native Australian bees.Pink surprise

One of the particular favourites of teddy bear bees, this native shrub flowers through most of the year. It prefers full sun and is quite resistant to most forms of damage that would do in more vulnerable plants.

Native Rosemary

Social native Australian bees have a traditional social hive structure. There's one fertile female (the queen), males (drones), and hundreds, even thousands of sterile females (workers). Australian native honey bees fall within this category; they produce less honey than their European counterparts but are essential to the delicate ecosystem. Australia is a host of only 11 native social bee species. The most famous of those species is the Stingless bee.

Semi-social bees work in small groups to maintain their nests but don’t have a traditional social structure. Several fertile females can inhabit the same nest and they cooperate for the greater good. Unlike social bees, their nests don't usually reach big sizes. They also do not exhibit the same social roles as social bees, such as queen or workers.

Solitary native Australian bees are complex in the sense that all females are fertile and create their nests. Most native species fall into this category. They don't tend to their young or the nest for very long. Nests are temporary spawning grounds for their offspring, but they don't remain in a colony structure like social bees. This makes them an easy target for cuckoo bees. Some examples of solitary bees are Blue-banded bees, teddy bear bees, rasin bees, and leafcutter bees.

Significance of Native Australian Bees

Bees and the flora around them tend to evolve side by side. That’s why Australian native bees are attracted to native Australian plants and are important to maintain the balance in the ecosystem. Some plants can hardly be pollinated without bees’ help. This makes them essential for biodiversity.

One of the specialities when it comes to Australian native bees is buzz pollination. Buzz pollination is the process of releasing firmly handled pollen from the anthers using vibration. Essentially, the pollen wouldn’t be released in another way due to its inaccessibility. Native solitary bees are very good at pollinating those particular plants, so they’re imperative for some crops’ reproduction. Many of those crops have no other means of pollination, making native Australian bees crucial for their survival.

What to do if you have a bee infestation at home or in the yard?

Depending on the bee species, they can pose danger to your well being as well as your home’s. If you notice signs of a bee infestation in or around your property, we recommend turning to a professional pest control expert. The controllers will know how to handle the situation.