What’s the buzz on native bees?

When talking about bees we often think of a European Honey Bee, or the European Bumblebee. But did you know Australia is home to up to 1,650 native bee species? With at least 200 different species found in the Adelaide hills?

European honey bees were introduced in Australia in the 1920s for honey production, as native bees do not store nectar. Today, having escaped from their hives, honey bees are now feral in Australia and whilst they help to pollinate crops, they also out-compete native birds and mammals for food and nesting sites in tree hollows.

Native Australian bees vary in shape, coloration, nesting habits, behaviour and flower preferences, and can range in size from just 2mm long to 25mm long! Unlike the social Honey Bee that requires a hive, most native species (with few exceptions) are known as solitary bees, and will work and nest independently. Some bee species only nest in the ground, sometimes sharing a central entrance point that branches off into many independent bees’ nesting tunnels within. Other bee species will only nest in natural hollows such as rock crevices, old borer’s holes or dig into soft timber or stems of plants.

Active from September through to April, native bee life-cycles can range from 4-6 weeks for some species, and up to a year for others. Native bees are also important pollinators for many of our native plant species that can’t be pollinated by honey bees – all the more reason to encourage them into your garden!

To support native bees in your garden, learn how to make bee hotels, nesting walls, select the right native plants and build an insect spiral, visit 'Bee walls, habitats and nesting blocks' on the Mary River Catchment Coordinating Committee website.

Article: NRM Education