Native Bees In Your Garden

Faye Arcaro, photojournalist and enthusiastic advocate of organic horticulture, presented us with the first talk of the year, at our new venue. This was a well-attended meeting with as many visitors as members.

There are more than 2000 native bee species in Australia and academic reference sources about them are few. However there are many web and social media sites where bee images and information are shared. There is more that’s not known about most native bee species than has been documented and researchers are principally based in the eastern states.

About 800 native bee species occur in Western Australia. Many are endemic, most are solitary and some are stingless; all are pollinators and all are non-aggressive. Faye’s images featured several types of native bees including: the attractive Blue-banded Bee (Amegillia sp.), the Leaf-cutter Bee (Megachile sp.), the Reed Bee (Exoneura sp.) and the Masked Bee (Hylaeus sp.)

Over a number of years Faye has been developing her garden and observing relationships between plant species and the insects that visit them, their lifestyles and seasonal variations. Details were captured photographically and her presentation shared many beautiful images featuring a range of these pollinators and other insects that visit her garden.

Faye described plant species that encourage insect pollinators as well as the type of habitats where these insects might brood. The macro images of insects showed us some of the fine detail, such as bees with long and short tongues and the roosting of several male Blue-banded Bees along a twig.

F Arcaro)

 For DIY-enthusiast members, there was an opportunity to revisit their wood and bric-a-brac storeroom for materials from which “bee hotels” could be created as brood sites.Old tree trunks and woodpiles provide good habitats in the garden, where some bee types bore cylindrical holes for their eggs. Faye brought a range of materials suitable for making bee hotels as well as a finished example. Bee hotels can be made to any size and constructed from a selection of materials including cardboard rolls, bamboo, plastic and paper drinking-straws, blocks of dried mud and many seed pods including magnolia, grass tree and Banksia. Cropped bamboo stalks and hollow straws packed into bundles of approximately 15cm lengths were favoured as a matrix and packed into a frame of old seasoned wood. The matrix tubes are best aligned slightly off horizontal, pointing downwards at the front, to shelter developing insect eggs from rain. What works best will be determined by whatever insects visit the hotel; it seems that it doesn’t take long for insects to locate a new brood site and inspect it.

Blue-banded Bee (Amegilla cingulata), F Arcaro

Plants attracting bee pollinators to Faye’s garden were a mix of native, exotics and included some succulents. Leschenaultia, Hibbertia sp., Hemiandra, bush basil, and Grevillea were amongst common bee attractants but the flowers of exotics like bolted kale, Hydrangea, Lantana, Pentas, Lobelia, Buddleia and others were also visited and used by insects.

Predators of native bees are many and include birds and parasitic insects such as some wasps, flies and beetles. Some of these insects do visit flowers and appear to be pollinators.

Faye’s enthusiasm reminded us that observing and photographing nature at work in our gardens is an ongoing wildlife drama.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Susan Stocklmayer

Suggested website references:

Aussiebee

Wikipedia-Australian Native Bees