Globally there are approximately 20,000 different types of bees, and in Australia we are lucky to have over 1,500 native bee species in a range of shapes and sizes. Our bees are critical to the sustainability of our food supply, with an astonishing one third of Australian food dependent on honey bee pollination.
From almonds to avocados, pumpkins and berries, bees are vital for the pollination and production of many of our favourite foods! You can learn more about this here.
We’re so glad you asked. Australian native bees can be solitary or social bees, while honey bees live together in a nest or hive. Honey bees are generally stronger pollinators, but the smaller native bees can access smaller flowers and also play an important role in pollination. Let’s look at their unique characteristics a bit further:
Teddy Bear Bees (Amegilla bombiformis): Furry and oh-so-cute, these native Australian bees are excellent pollinators and found all over Australia, except for Tasmania. Teddy Bear Bees use a technique of “buzz pollination” to help flowers release as much pollen as possible. They vibrate their wings and body at a very specific frequency to trigger the pollen release, which is required by plants including tomatoes, capsicums, and blueberries.
Carpenter Bees (Xylocopa aerata): With an incredible metallic green and gold colouring, these native Australian pollinator bees burrow their own homes in wood, giving them their name.
Cuckoo Bees (Thyreus nitidulus, Thyreus caeruleopunctatus, Thyreus lugubris): Magnificent in colour, cuckoo bees display chequered, striped or spotted abdomens in vibrant blue and white hues. Like their namesake, these bees laying their eggs in the nests of other bees.
Quasihesma Bees (Euryglossina clypearis): Australia’s smallest native bee is found in northern Australia and can be as small as 1.8mm. This tiny little pollinator has a distinct black body and yellow face, and loves to forage Eucalypt flowers.
Italian bees (Apis mellifera, ligustica) are thought to originate from the continental part of Italy, south of the Alps, and north of Sicily. It said they may have survived the last Ice Age in Italy! These bees have uniform colouring and are yellow to brown in appearance. They are favoured for their large colonies and brood nest size.