Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wildlife on Wednesday ... the native Blue-Banded Bee.

Introducing a real garden and bushland treasure ... this is one of our native Australian bees.  It's found throughout most of Oz except for Tasmania and the Northern Territory ... not exactly sure why they don't like those two spots!!  This brightly coloured native bee is a very common sight in my garden though.

The Blue-Banded Bee ... Amegilla cingulata ... has iridescent blue on black bands all over the abdomen ... rather like a fancy waistcoat ... and it's head and thorax are covered in gold hairs.  Apparently the males have five blue bands while the females have only four!!!

This bee is around 15 mm long and is a solitary bee.  Actually we have many hundreds of species of native bees that live solitary lives.  There are no Queens or Workers in solitary bee species ...  so you will see them all out there working hard on their own to collect pollen.

These bees will nest in tiny holes in the ground or in wood.  Each nest is built by one female ... although it's an interesting fact that the females have been known to build in the same location close to other nests. 

Blue-banded Bees are such important pollinators and are specialists in what is known as 'buzz pollination'.   They use this special technique to get the pollen from certain flowers.   Apparently the 'anther' of these particular flowers is tubular with an opening at one end.  The pollen inside is very smooth-grained and attached firmly.

These bees come along, hold the flowers and by moving their flight muscles very, very quickly, they cause both the flower and anthers to vibrate. This vibration causes the pollen to drop!  That's why every time one of these bees rests on a flower, you will hear a short buzzing sound!  (Sorry you won't hear the bee's buzz on my video clip because the sound of the wind blowing through the Eucalyptus trees in just too loud!)

Blue-banded bees have a very distinctive 'dart and hover' flight pattern ... which was evident in the video. Another fascinating fact about these bees ... the males apparently rest at night by clinging tightly onto plant stems.

To encourage and support native bees such as these, it's important to plant nectar-rich flowering native plants such as Eucalyptus, Callistemon, Grevillea, Melaleuca, Leptospermum, Westringia and Xanthorrhoea.  We need to avoid using insecticides and if you're clearing up around your yard or property look out for possible nesting sites.  These bees will build nests not only under the ground but also in:
-- burrows in soft sandstone, mortar or mud bricks
-- hollow pithy twigs (including tree fern fronds and even dead canes of lantana ... as we found out when clearing away large patches of it out in the bushland!)
-- old beetle holes in trees or logs
-- soft timbers such as dead mango branches and grass tree flower spikes
-- hollows inside large trees.


  1. Great shots! The first closeup is awesome.

  2. Thanks Eileen ... these fellows are so quick and hard to capture. As you can see in that first shot, the wings are beating so fast it looks like the bee has no wings at all!!

  3. Wow! beautiful bee shots and interesting information. Love the blue stripes!

  4. Another great science lesson Bernie. I did not realize there was such a thing as a solitary bee.


  5. I just love the bee story. We have Honey bees and the Bumble bees, but I've never seen the Blue Banded bees. The bees are making a comeback here on Long Island. They were disappearing due to something which was causing their hives to fail, Colony Collapse Disorder, . I don't know the exact reasons, but they see to be coming back, which is really important for our fruit crops etc. Bees are a protected species and cannot be eliminated by exterminator companies. I had a swarm in my front stone steps and had to call a beekeeper. He broght a hive and placed it on one of the steps and it took about a month, but he removed the bees to his garden where he has several hives and sells honey. To read more go to:, but there seem to be bees once again in my garden. I hope it was just a cycle of Nature and that they are back to business.

  6. Fascinating little creatures! The photos and video are great. What beautiful bees.
    One of our native bees is the "Orchard Mason Bee". It looks more like a fly than a bee, and is a gentle creature that does wonders as a pollinator.

  7. I love your blue-banded bee, and there's no question how it got its name! We have a number of native bees here, most of which I haven't yet identified. We did add Mason Bees to the farm last year, and hope to bring in some honey bees next spring to help out our resident pollinators.

  8. Hello Bernie - what amazing photos and video! I only noticed that we had blue-banded bees in our garden for the first time last summer. I was working in the garden and heard a very loud and intense buzzing by my ear and looked up to see one of these! I can't wait until the bees are back in my garden...not long to wait now!

  9. Bernie this was a facinating read and watch. I first saw a picture of a blue bee last week on another blog but I have learned so much about them here today on your post. I think it must be great to watch them in your garden collecting the pollen and that blue colour is so striking.

  10. It certainly seems to be a very busy bee!

  11. Love the pictures that you have taken of the this cool blue band bee ;-) I love the fact that they build their own home... they are so clever! I hope they will continue to have plenty of nectar.

  12. Thank you everyone ... I spent quite a bit of time today watching one of these fabulous bees. It was really enjoying the nectar of the Salvias ... and I was enjoying the spectacle!

    Lori ... thanks for the link. It's quite amazing to me that there are places where the bee population seems to be disappearing ... we don't seem to have any such problems here. There's always bees and wasps around!

  13. Hi Bernie - a little late just caught this post. Amazed at how you captured that very active but divine little bee. We have several solitaries here in the UK but none with striped-blue trousers
    Thanks for all the info


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