Even more buzzing about Australia’s native bees.
This will be my last post about Australian bees, so I thought I’d put a couple of more beautiful ones but then finish up with a group of potentially increasingly important bees.
Did you know that native male and female bees of the same species can look very different? The males of many species aren’t around for that long in the year (they’re only needed to do one thing). So it’s usually the busy females who are recorded as they pack their nests full of pollen. Males can usually be identified by their longer antennae, but they can also be a completely different colour.
Take the great or giant carpenter bee Xylocopa (Koptortosoma) aruana. The female of this species is black with a yellow thorax, whilst the males are a pale creamy colour. These bees can be found around Brisbane and elsewhere in northern Australia and are the largest bees in Australia (15 – 24mm long!). They are solitary and females make burrows in decaying wood.
Left: a female on a finger, image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/58356728@N07/6729550619/sizes/z/in/photostream/
Right: a male, image from http://www.padil.gov.au/pollinators/Pest/Main/138571#
Exoneura (Exoneura) bicolor is one of our less commonly known bees, but it is one of our few social bees. It is also a common bee in my study. The distribution of this bee is somewhat disjointed, but it presumably it spreads up the east coast of Australia. It has a distinctive red metasoma (bottom) which has a flat tip. It’s a small bee, with the females only being around 7mm.
Stingless or sugar-bag bees include the 2 genus Austroplebeia and Tetragonula with about ten species in all. They are very small, only 3-5mm, are completely black, social and stingless. Because of their sociality and being unable to sting they are the only bees that are commercially available for sale in Australia. They can be kept for their honey, wax and crop pollination abilities, but are only available in Sydney and much of northern Australia (which makes me very sad).
I hope you have liked all my posts about bees. Don’t forget to have a close look at a flower next time you see something on it, as it may be on of our many and pretty cute bees.