Beekeeping and Honey!
Bees bees bees! February 17 2017, 0 Comments
There are more than 25,000 recorded species of bees in the world, which can be broken down into 9 families of bees (under the banner of Apoidea). The ‘honeybee’ belongs to the Apidea family, and contains 10 sub species (and a hybrid). Apis mellifera is the honeybee that is most commonly kept for honey production and pollination services. From my other blogs, you can learn about our bee-autiful ladies, but for this one I have collected a little snippet of info on some of our other bees, starting with one of our cutest Aussie bees!
Teddy Bear Bees
Scientific Name: Amegilla bombiformis
Origin: Australian Native, east coast.
Description: Golden, furry and bumblebee shaped, about 7-15mm big.
Behaviour: Teddy-bear bees are solitary, with a female building a pollen, nectar and egg cell in the ground. They have a distinct buzz when flying and this means they are often mistaken for bumblebees.
Attitude: Oh dear, can't we all just get along? (These bees are preyed on by other bees and birds).
Cuteness Factor: 10/10
Factoid: These Teddy Bears are very efficient buzz pollinators.
Scientific Name: Xylocopinae
Distribution: World wide
Description: Black and shiny, with some sub-species having flashes of yellow.
Behaviour: Generally solitary in nature, these bees have gained their names from their burrowing into solid wood.
Attitude: I chew out wood, and make it my b*tch, I mean, nest. That makes me a bad ass! There are YouTube channels dedicated to stopping my awesome power!
Factoid: One Carpenter bee species lays the largest recorded egg of any insect!
Leaf Cutter Bees:
Scientific Name: Megachilidae
Distribution: World wide
Description: The general size of a honeybee, generally black and white stripes, however, this varies from species and distribution.
Behaviour: Solitary in nature, these bees have gained their names the neat circles they chew out on soft leaf plants, such as roses. They roll the small disc and add eggs, pollen and small amount of nectar to the cells they make. Unlike honeybees who carry pollen on their legs, Leafcutter bees carry their pollen on their abdomen.
Attitude: I like to watch... These bees are very shy and the only reason you know they are around is from their little cut outs.
Factoid: The Leafcutter Bee would prefer to bite you, before it would sting you!
Scientific Name: Megachilidae osmia
Distribution: Northern Hemisphere
Description: Generally metallic green or blue, about the size of a honeybee
Behaviour: These solitary bees utilize the abandoned hollows of a carpenter bee, hollows in trees etc. The female uses mud to create cells for food and eggs.
Attitude: I’ll borrow that, thanks! They take the opportunity to use any old thing for their nests.
Factoid: The Mason bee is so cheeky, they have been known to use abandoned snail shells as homes.
Scientific Name: Nomadinae
Distribution: World wide
Species Info: 31 genera, 10 tribes
Description: Metallic blue and black, with reduced hair and no pollen baskets on their legs. Rather wasp-like in appearance, these bees are one of the least evolved bees.
Behaviour: These bees lay their eggs in other bees and insects nests, hence the name ‘cuckoo’ bee. In some cases, the Cuckoo Bee will take over the small nest and kill the Queen.
Attitude: Can’t be bothered, you do it! These bees live a life of deception and intrigue!
Factoid: They often sleep grasping a plant stem with just their mandibles.
Scientific Name: Apidae bombus
Distribution: Northern Hemisphere, introduced to some parts of the Southern Hemisphere, such as New Zealand and Tasmania
Species Info: 250 species
Description: Fuzzy, furry (the fuzz is called ‘pile’) and dopey, this black and yellow bee ranges in size from 1.9cm to about 4cm.
Behaviour: A social bee, the Bumble will form small colonies (compared to the Honeybee), sometimes underground of about 50-400 bees.
Cuteness Factor: 10/10. Cuteness personified, only rivaled by puppies and baby puggles.
Attitude: None. They are dopey happiness balls that fly.
Factoid: Bumblebees have no ears. This does not reduce their cuteness in any way.
Scientific Name: Halictidae
Distribution: World wide, uncommon in Australia.
Species Info: Large family of bees, more than 1000 species in Northern America alone. The common family of bees, other than the Apis family.
Description: Small, petite bees, dark or metallic in colour. They gain their common name by being attracted to the smell of salt, including human sweat. Don't be put off by the name - these bees are very pretty and petite.
Behaviour: Some Sweat bees are solitary, others hive together in a social manner. They can build nests almost anywhere, including in dry, bare dirt.
Factoid: This family contains some nocturnal bees.
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.
References: Aussie Bee Website