Bees in Australia April 15 2015, 2 Comments

Did you know there are over 25,000 species of bees in the world? From those, only about 10 are the 'true' honey bee that we associate with Pooh-bear and his pots of honey. European honeybees (Apis mellifera) were introduced into Australia in 1822. We do not have any bumblebee species on mainland Australia, however a species of bumblebee was accidentally introduced to Tasmania in 1992.

In Australia, we have just over 1,500 species, about 6% of the worlds species. Most of these are solitary, raising young in burrows in the ground or small borer holes in trees. There is not a queen, worker or drone, but rather a single female who raises an individual nest similar to a bird. Although they have stingers, most Australian bees stingers are too small to deliver a proper sting!

Only 10 species of Australian bees are social bees (communal, living in hives) and these are stingless. They are not quite as developed as the European honeybee, but have a complex social behaviour. They do not produce a high amount of honey, however, they are becoming more popular for use in pollination services in Northern Australia. Australian bees are used for Macadamia pollination and Blue-Banded bees are being studied in greenhouses for tomatoes as they use 'buzz' pollination and have proven to be more effective for pollination in short-term studies.

The smallest native bee in Australia is Cape York's Minute Bee (Quasihesma) and is only 2mm long! Our largest bee is the Northern Carpenter Bee, who lives in tropical northern Australian and parts of northern NSW. This bee reaches 24mm, which is not quite as big as the largest of the bees at 39mm (Megachile pluto - leafcutter bee from Indonesia).

We have some very pretty bees in Western Australia, (many endemic) species such as the Blue Banded Bee and the Teddy Bear Bee (see below).

Native bees are vital to our environment due to the specialized pollination many of our flora require. You can attract native bees to your garden by building a native insect hotel, or planting native species guaranteed to entice them to you! These include: Abelia grandiflora, Angophora, Baeckea, Buddleja davidii, Callistemon, Eucalyptus, Grevillea hybrids, Hardenbergia violacea, Lavandula, Leptospermum, Melaleuca and Westringia.

Happy gardening!

References: Aussie Bee Website

Photos: Aussie Bee Website, Australian Geographic,