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Native Bees

Updated: May 17, 2021

We are certain to see some European Honey Bees (Apis mellifera) in the Great Southern Bioblitz 2020. This species was introduced to the continent in around 1822 for honey production by the early settlers. However, there are now many feral colonies of European Honey Bees are present throughout the continent. I myself came across one last week in a tree in a North Adelaide Park. This is not news to most of you, but did you know there are a number of other introduced species and around 1, 650 native bee species in Australia! That is an astonishing number! How many will be recorded in Australia during the Great Southern Bioblitz 2020.

Of all the bees in southern Australia, One of the favourite native bees at least in South Australia is the Blue Banded Bee (Amegilla cingulata). What may surprise you is that there are around 40 different species of Genus Amegilla in Australia, so “the Blue-banded Bee” is, in fact, a number of different species. The Genus Amegilla is very diverse, it is divided to several groups or sub-genera with three occurring in Australia each containing a number of species Asarapoda (25 species), Notomegilla (2 species), and Zonamegilla (13 species). Many similar species are confused with the common Blue Banded Bee, Amegilla cingulata, this interesting species is more interesting than favourite it first appears.

One of the favourite native bees at least in South Australia is the Blue Banded Bee.

There are also many other interesting species of large flashy bees in Australia including the Chequered Cuckoo Bee, Thyreus caeruleopunctatus and the Golden-haired Mortar Bee, Amegilla bombiformis. There are also a number of smaller bees that we sometimes overlook, while its getting cooler in the south we may still get some nice observations in the warmer climates of Redlands.

The adorable ‘Teddy bear bee’ from Queensland, Amegilla (Asaropoda) sp. © Greg, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)

A common mistake that is made when looking for native bees is confusing hover flies (Family Syrphidae) for a Bee! I often see the questions on social media asking if they are bees. An easy way to check is hoverflies have only two wings as they are members of the order Diptera (two wings). So if you are looking for something to do while practising hoverflies socially distancing, take a walk outside and look past those honey bees, you may be surprised at what you discover.

Yellow-shouldered Stout Hover Fly Simosyrphus grandicornis © Stephen Fricker, all rights reserved

For those that can’t wait for the City Nature Challenge (24-27th April) for to do some citizen science, the Autumn Wild Pollinator Count will be held Sunday 12 April and runs until the following Sunday 19 April. This great citizen science project runs twice a year with observation being made in the Australian spring and autumn.

further reading “Creating a Haven for Native Bees” is bigger, better, buzzier! contact Email for a copy.

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