Native Bees in the Victorian Backyard

While honey bees are highly beneficial to the environment, native bees serve a vital and unique purpose in Australia. They pollinate Australia’s unique flora and are an important part of the bushland. There are some 1600 species of indigenous bee in Australia. They come in all shapes, sizes and colours, be that black, yellow, red, metallic green, blue polka dotted and striped! It is important to encourage these bees to your garden by planting flora that bees enjoy. For native bees, some good suggestions are cut leaf daisy, flowering gum, pincushion hakea, tea tree, purple coral pea, grevilia pink surprise, native rosemary and bottlebrush. However, due to the size and environmental diversity of Australia, not all native bees can be found all over the country. So, what are some of the native bees can be found in Victorian backyards?

Reed bees are black and slender and range from 5 to 8mm in length. They live in urban areas, forests, woodlands and heaths. Their name comes from their habit of making nests in the dried stems of plants, including Lantana, raspberries, blackberries and the dead fronds of tree ferns. A female bee often guards the entrance to their nests. Some species are quite cooperative and share nests as well as foraging and guarding duties. Unusually, their nests are not divided into discreet chambers for larvae. In fact, in the most common species, larvae and pupae lie together in a pile.

Blue banded bees are debatably the most beautiful of Australia’s native bees. They are about 11 mm long, with a furry red-brown thorax and striking bands of metallic blue across their black abdomens; a stark contrast to the usual colourings of their relatives. However, blue-banded bees are anti-social; instead of living in large colonies, they are solitary creatures, with each female bee mating and then building a solitary nest by herself. The bees inhabit urban areas, woodlands, forests and heath areas, with the female bee choosing somewhere secluded for her nest, such as a shallow burrow in clay soil or mudbricks. Despite being a bit of a loner, the blue banded bee is a great pollinator with a very special trick up its sleeve. This subspecies performs a unique type of pollination known as “buzz pollination”. This involves the bee grasping a flower and pulsating 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.

Teddy bear bees are named due to their rotund bodies. These chubby, furry brown bees range from 7 to 15 mm in length. They build shallow nest burrows in soft soil and sometimes nest underneath houses or in sheltered locations such as eroded creek banks. Like blue banded bees, this species is solitary, and each female builds her own underground nest, but many bees may nest together in the one location. In an interesting quirk of this rather endearing bee, as they age, the hair on the top of their thorax becomes worn, leaving a black bald spot.

Leafcutter bees are perhaps one of the most fascinating bee species. Black in colour and ranging from 6 to 15 mm, these natives have a unique skill. Using their unusually strong jaws or mandibles, they cut very neat, circular sections from the edges of soft leaves from plants such as roses and wisteria. After cutting these out, they take these sections back to their nests to build cells for their young. Gardeners have often woken to find these unusual, perfect shapes cut from the leaves of their rose bushes; very different to the irregular munching of a caterpillar!

Finally, resin bees come in many sizes and colours. Some are large with white tufts of hair and reach 14 mm in length; others are small 8mm varieties with bold orange-coloured abdomens. They make their nests in pre-existing holes or gaps in timber or stonework and are called ‘resin’ bees as they

collect resins and gums from the environment to build partitions between their brood cells and seal holes in their nest.

As we can see from this handful of bees found buzzing around your backyard in Melbourne and across Victoria, natives possess many remarkable and unique qualities. As there are over 1600 native species in Australia, it is important we encourage these indigenous animals to keep pollinating native plants and visiting our gardens by creating attractive environments for them to visit.

Native Bees in the Victorian Backyard

12 thoughts on “Native Bees in the Victorian Backyard

  • June 22, 2019 at 9:56 pm
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    Hi I’m really keen to start bee keeping and really want to keep a native species but im a little unsure as to where i can get hives from and basically everything i need from.
    I live in Leongatha Vic if you have any suggestions
    Kind regards Christina

    Reply
    • September 5, 2019 at 11:26 am
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      Hi,

      Sorry we can’t keep the native ones in Victoria as its far too cold, European Honey bees are the best.

      Reply
  • July 9, 2019 at 11:26 pm
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    Can you keep sugar bag stingless bees in Melbourne?

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    • September 5, 2019 at 11:25 am
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      No sorry its too cold for us in Melbourne and Victoria

      Reply
      • April 9, 2020 at 9:28 pm
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        How much are the bees worth. If its not to much i would like to get 2 hives going

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        • April 12, 2020 at 3:37 pm
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          $550 for European honey bee hive

          Reply
  • February 5, 2020 at 3:29 pm
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    My understanding is there is a species of native bee endemic to South Gippsland; in fact I know the chap who did his PhD on the Gippsland species!

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  • April 12, 2020 at 4:29 pm
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    Only European honey bees in Victoria

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    • September 1, 2020 at 8:11 pm
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      I have books about native bees in Victoria so I don’t understand the constant response that all of Victoria is too cold for anything but European honeybees. That makes no sense. What is your level of expertise Ben?

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      • September 11, 2020 at 6:10 pm
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        Hi Georgia,

        Thank you fort the message, yes its correct. It’s too cold to successfully keep ‘Social’ native bees in Victoria.

        Solitary bees can not be kept in a domestic situation like European honey bees.

        Ben

        Reply
  • May 17, 2020 at 9:37 am
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    Hi I’m potentially moving to mildura, other comments it was made that native bees shouldn’t be kept in Victoria due to the cold. Does the same go for mildura? I am currently in lower blue mountains in NSW and have heard that others keep native bees there.

    Reply
    • June 9, 2020 at 6:25 am
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      Hi,

      Unfortunately it is too cold over winter to keep native bees. European honey bees make the best pollinators in your area.

      Reply

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