An abundance of bees

An abundance of native bees, that is. Australia has about 2000 species of them, according to Terry Houston’s Guide, and recently I seem to have most of them in my own garden.

I exaggerate, of course, but I know I have more than I can keep up with. In the last few days alone, for instance, I’ve caught four species feeding on Coleus flowers at once. Here they are.

Blue-banded Bee

blue-banded bee in flight
Blue-banded bee heading for a coleus flower, with its tongue already extended

blue-banded bee on flower
The wings are blurred because the flower couldn’t support its weight

Nearly as big as the familiar (but not native) honey bee, the Blue-banded Bee is a common visitor. There are many species in the genus Amegilla, and several live in the Townsville region.

Neon Cuckoo Bee

cuckoo bee
Neon Cuckoo Bee on coleus

The unmistakeable Neon Cuckoo Bee (Thyreus nitidulus) is not such a regular visitor but always very welcome (to humans) because it is so beautiful. It’s nearly as big as the Blue-banded Bees but not popular with them because it lays its eggs in their nests – which is why it is called a “cuckoo” bee, of course.

Native Honey Bee

native honey bee
Native honey bee on coleus

Far smaller (look at its size in relation to the flowers), this less-than-housefly-sized bee is our stingless social native bee, Tetragonula. They are sometimes called “sweat bees” or “sugarbag bees” or “native honey bees”, all of which are valid common names. Aussiebee introduces the family here, with good photos.

Halictid Bee

halictid bee
Halictid bee on coleus flower

Almost the same size, this bee doesn’t even have a common name. It must belong to the family Halictidae, since that’s the only family which carries pollen under its abdomen like this. But even the family doesn’t have a real common name in Australia, since the American common name, “sweat bees”, is used here for our native honey bees; “Halictid” is best, and Wikipedia introduces them all here. There are lots of them, and all I can say is that this one has a greenish thorax and black abdomen, and it is probably in the genus Homalictus.

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