Australian Native Bees

Bees are the world's great pollinators. Other insects help plants reproduce but none do it quite as efficiently as our little buzzing friends. Their role in the delicate balance of our entire ecosystem is undeniable. With over 1,500 species of native bees, Australia sports an impressive pollinator repertoire.

Out of the 1,500 native Australian bees, we have all kinds and species. Some of them are solitary, some are social, and some walk the path in-between. But all of them are fascinating. We’ll explore some of these tireless workers of the animal kingdom.   

Native bees are essential to the biodiversity in Australia. That’s why it’s important to understand them better. 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 doesn’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. They can be a danger to humans as they are more aggressive, especially when threatened. Having a traditional social structure, they have a queen and workers. As a result, they can build enormous hives. It is not uncommon they choose to nest in walls and sheds. Please, do not try to handle the matter on your own if you have a bee problem. Call and book professional bee control instead. The controllers will know what to do. And 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 in their back and abdominal areas. They are quite unique due to the fact the shade of blue changes when you look at it from a different angle.


Blue-banded bees are solitary species native to Australia. The female usually builds a nest in a burrow, dried out river bank, or in the nooks and crannies of old brick and mortar constructions. Individual bees often builds nests close to other bees’ nests.


Taking the name blue-banded bee rather seriously, they mostly go for blue/purple flowers and are extremely proficient at pollination.


Blue-banded bees are not aggressive. You will recognize them by the blue stripes and very fast movements. There is a difference between the male and the female is in the number of stripes, with males having five and females having four stripes.

Cuckoo Bee (Sphecodes spp.)

Cuckoo Bee (Sphecodes spp.)

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


Cuckoo bees wait for the female to fly away in order to gather some nectar and pollen, leaving the nest untended. This short window is enough time for the cuckoo bee to sneak in and lays its eggs next to the host’s eggs. The unsuspecting host mother returns with the nectar, loads and isolates the compartment, providing her future brood with a breakfast for champions.


Little does she know, the cuckoo bee eggs will hatch before that and their larvae will eat all the nectar and 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 is seven bands, you’re looking at a male. If they’re six - female.


Teddy bear bees build their nests in soil. However, since we’ve invaded much of their natural habitat, it’s not uncommon for them to build their nests under our houses. Though they’re not aggressive, they will sting if provoked.


The domino cuckoo bee stalks the teddy bear bee. Teddy bear bee younglings can often become victim of the gluttonous and selfish nature of cuckoo bee’s progeny.


Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Leafcutter Bee (Megachile)

Leafcutter Bee (Megachile)

You’ve probably seen these little industrious insects’ handywork in your garden without realizing it. The next time you notice small semi-circular holes in the leaves when you pass by some of your green plants or trees, look around. Odds are you will see leafcutter bees flying nearby.


Leafcutter bees are a 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 features, as you’ve probably already figured, are 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. They look like the attendants at a tropical carnival with their red, mask-like markings. You literally cannot miss them if they’re around. Ironically, because of 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. Unlike carpenter bees, masked bees don’t make their own holes in the wood. Their small size helps them immensely with making use of what’s already available.


Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Carpenter Bee (Xylocopinae)

Carpenter Bee (Xylocopinae)

Carpenter bees carry their name unironically. They can be one of the most destructive and pestilent native Australian bee species. Unlike masked bees that make use of already readily available holes in wood, carpenter bees tend to create tunnels. They have an affinity for naked wood. Old, damaged, unprotected wood is their favourite kind. It’s easy for them to carve it and make their nests.


If there is a carpenter bee infestation, you should immediately seek professional help for these little buggers can do a lot of damage quite quickly. One of the things you can do in order to improve your chances of staying carpenter bee-free is to paint over all the wood. They’re are not very fond of that. It’s not a guarantee, but it’s better than nothing. And, of course, you can always employ bee control services if things get out of hand.


Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Resin Bee (Megachile sculpturalis)

Resin Bee (Megachile sculpturalis)

Unlike carpenter bees, resin bees build their nests in an opportunistic manner. Instead of creating their own cavities in the wood, they use cavities that are already present, just like masked bees. However, they’re named resin bees due to the fact they use resin and other natural sticky materials in order 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)

Reed bees tend to keep a low profile. Because of their small size, they are one of the least known native bee species in Australia. It takes a great attention to detail to spot them.


Once you know what you’re looking for, they’re relatively easy to identify. 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)

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. They are a social species, meaning there’s a queen, a handful of males (drones), and hundreds, often thousands of worker bees.


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. If you’re suffering a bee infestation, it’s not improbable it’s actually stingless social bees. The good news is, they’re harmless. However, they can still cause property damage and be extremely aggravating. Stingless social bees produce edible honey.


Image source: Shutterstock Waldemar Manfred Seehagen

Homalictus Bee

Homalictus Bee

Homalictus bees dig intricate nests in burrows and soil, alike. They are semi-social Australian native bees as many females can live in the same nest and navigate its complex structure. There’s usually a single entrance guarded by one or several females, depending on the size of the nest.


Despite their relatively small size (though bigger than stingless and reed bees), Homalictus bees come in a variety of different colours. Some of them are quite traditional, while others look like post-modernist art projects.


Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Flora Bottlebrush Garden AustraliaWhether 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. Here are a few of the plants you can be most certain will attract Australian native bees to your garden.

LavenderLavender 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 DaisyThe 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.

Hakea LaurinaSymbolizing 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.

Pink surpriseWhat 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.

Native Rosemary Source: Flickr

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.

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.  Only 11 native species are social.

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 own 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.

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 by means of 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.

Bees have also helped the indigenous population significantly. For many years, humans have used beeswax, honey, and resin in their day-to-day lives. Aboriginal Australians often used their honey as food and medicine. Honey has well-documented medicinal and anti-inflammatory properties. Wax and resin were used for making tools and weapons.