Blue-banded Bee

Amegilla cingulata

One of our reasons for establishing a native garden is to establish a haven for wildlife. This includes birds, reptiles, amphibians and arthropods. Unfortunately, many gardeners have been conditioned to reach for poisons as soon as they see something with six legs and wings.

Most insects are either useful or benign.

At Yallaroo we find that our resident birds keep any explosion of insects in check.

As our plants have matured and flowered they have attracted a bewildering range of insects. Amongst these six-legged visitors we have noticed a number of native bees.

Bees, both native and exotic, have four wings. Flies have two. Many native bees have pouches on their rear legs that are used for pollen collection.

Blue-banded Bees are one of the most prominent native bees to visit our plants. They are slightly smaller than Australia’s well-known Blowflies. Blue-banded Bees have black abdomens that have distinctive pale metallic-blue bands. Males have five complete bands and females have four. Both sexes have a dart-and-hover flight pattern.

Blue-banded Bees have a liking for blue and purple flowers but will visit flowers with other colours.

They are one of the native bees that gather pollen by Buzz Pollination. Some plants have anthers that will only release their pollen when they are vibrated. Members of the Solanaceae family require anther vibration for pollen release. Blue-banded Bees are able to vibrate anthers. We have observed and heard them in action on our Solanum cinereum flowers. They have also been observed visiting the blooms of Dianella, Kunzea, Melaleuca, Plectranthus and Sollya.

There is some interest in using Blue-banded Bees to pollinate tomatoes growing in glasshouses.

The image shows a Blue-banded Bee and a Melaleuca nesophila flower. We were photographing the flower when we heard an insect buzzing. When the image was downloaded we found that we had captured a Blue-banded Bee approaching the flower. This was a chance in a thousand.

Females dig branched burrows borrows for their solitary nests. Soft, decomposing sandstone is a preferred material for nest construction. Apparently, the walls of mud brick houses are now becoming used for nesting sites.

This is just one of the many interesting insects that visit Yallaroo.

Some of this information was gleaned from a great little book: Native Bees of the Sydney Region by Dollin, Batley, Robinson and Faulkner. It is an Australian Native Bee Research Centre publication. This group has an interesting web site: http://www.aussiebee.com.au/index.html.

By Warren and Gloria Sheather