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Bees In Australia
The buzz on Australian native and European honey bees
Want to discover more about who is buzzing around your garden? Here are the facts on Australian native and European honey bees.
Australian Native Bees
There are 1600 varieties of Australian native bees. The smallest native bee is just 2mm long, while our largest native bee can grow up to 24mm or the size of a 10 cent coin. As well as black and yellow, Australian native bees can have white and blue stripes, some have electric blue spots and one type of native Australian bee is called the Teddy Bear bee because it is covered in fuzzy brown fur!
More than 90% of Australian native bees are solitary meaning they live alone and lay their eggs in a little hole or a hollow stem, which they seal with mud until their eggs hatch. A small number of Australian bees are social bees and live in colonies. They are more common in warm areas of Australia and may create hives of hundreds of bees in a hollow tree trunks.
Native bees are not aggressive and most are too small to deliver an effective sting. However, native bees should be treated with respect as they can sting more than once and it is possible to be allergic to the sting of a native bee. Only the social bees (Trigona and Austroplebia) are stingless and they are also the only native bees to make honey.
European Honey Bees
European settlers introduced several types of European honey bee to Australia in the 1800s. These bees are commercially raised to produce honey. They are usually 13-16mm long and coloured brown with dull, yellow stripes.
The European honey bees live in a colony, or hive, made up of one queen bee, several drones, and hundreds of worker bees.
Why Protect Pollinators?
Pollinators are essential for healthy biodiversity
Pollinators play a unique role in pollinating the plants, flowers and food crops we grow. They are responsible for protecting 75% of our crops, including a third of our food crops.
Pollinators include bees, bats, birds, moths, hover-flies and other insects. Native bees are an extremely important pollinator and have been pollinating Australia for tens of thousands of years, long before the European honey bee was introduced.
Locally the loss of habitat and flowers (food), as well as the use of pesticides has seen native solitary bee populations decline.
The Weleda Bee B&B Hotel project has been created to establish a network of shelters for native solitary bees to live and nest and by doing so help regenerate native bee population in Australia. Join us in protecting native bees by building a Bee B&B Hotel at your school.
14 Fun Facts about native bees and pollinators
Australia has over 1,600 hundred species of native bees, when you compare that to 828 bird species within Australia it really is amazing!
Working in harmony to support all life on earth
Biological diversity, or biodiversity, refers to the variety of different plants and animals in a habitat, working together in harmony.
Biodiversity is vital for supporting all life on Earth. It provides all of our food and medicines, as well as ensuring clean air and water and fertile soil. Even schoolyards have their own biodiversity of plants and animals that rely on each other for survival.
Australia is one of the world’s “megadiverse” countries because of the large number of our species that are only found here, including 80% of our plants and mammals and 40% of our birds. Among our wide variety of native species are more than 1,600 varieties of native bees – to put this in to context, there are 828 species of Australian birds.
Native solitary bees are an essential part of the biodiversity of Australia’s plant and animal life. They play a unique role in pollinating native wildflowers and the food crops we grow. In fact, pollinators protect 75% of our crops, including a third of our food crops.
A healthy, biodiverse ecosystem rich with many types of plants will support a wealth of life, including the humble bee.