Recently my family have dug up their backyard and converted it into a garden. Reclaiming once lush green couch lawn and creating a diverse veggie patch. Almost instantly we noticed an increase in insects from native bees to ladybugs and ants.
Every morning I like to walk through the garden to see what has grown. It’s also a good time to see what new insects I can find.
Today I found a colourful native bee hovering over our tomato plants, I have just spotted the Blue Banded bee.
Blue Banded Bees are amongst our most colourful Australian native bees. They are about 11 mm long and have bands of metallic blue fur across their black abdomens.
Blue Banded Bees are solitary bees. This means that each female bee mates and then goes off to build a solitary nest by herself. She builds her nest in a shallow burrow in clay soil or sometimes in mudbricks. Sometimes many Blue Banded Bees will build their nest burrows in the same spot, close to one another, like neighbouring houses in a village.
So what’s so special about Blue Banded bees? Well, Blue Banded Bees can perform a special type of pollination called ‘buzz pollination’. Some flowers hide pollen hidden inside tiny capsules. A Blue Banded Bee are able to grasp a flower of this type and shake her head up to 350 times per second, causing the pollen to shoot out of the capsule. She then carries it from flower to flower, pollinating the flowers while collecting the pollen for her nest. Quite a few of our native Australian flowers require buzz pollination, for example, Hibbertia.
Tomato flowers are also pollinated better when visited by a buzz pollinating bee. Researchers at the University of Adelaide made substantial progress in developing native Blue Banded Bees for greenhouse tomato pollination.