Blue banded bee

When you think of bees, you might well visualise the introduced European honey bee (Apis mellifera), but Australia has over 1500 species of its own. Lately this Amegilla sp. has been buzzing loudly around. It is slightly smaller than the regular Apis.

Blue banded bee (Amegilla)

Blue banded bee (Amegilla sp.)

The Australian Native Bee Research Centre has info on these bees and other native species, and is worth a click around the website. Amegilla is a solitary species, unlike the very social European honey bee.

The Australian Museum says:

The [female] common blue banded bee builds a solitary nest, but often close to one another. It prefers soft sandstone to burrow in, and areas of this type of rock can become riddled with bee tunnels. It also like mud-brick houses and often burrows into the mortar in old buildings. Cells at the end of the tunnel contain an egg with a pollen/nectar mixture for the emerging larva.

These bees use a particular technique for pollinating flowers, called ‘buzz pollination’. The Australian Native Bee Research Centre says:

Some flowers hide their pollen inside tiny capsules. A blue banded bee can grasp a flower like this and shiver her flight muscles, causing the pollen to shoot out of the capsule. She can then collect the pollen for her nest and carry it from flower to flower, pollinating the flowers. Quite a few of our native Australian flowers require buzz pollination eg Hibbertia, Senna.

It can sting, but is not as aggressive as the European honey bee. We also have stingless bees. I saw some in Chillingham, and they were tiny, about 3 mm long.

It’s always cheering to see a busy bee intent upon its business, and even nicer when it is as pretty as this one.