We’re Buzzing about World Bee Day!
Bees – they are the darlings of the insect world and with good reason, since these amazing pollinators keep our planet alive! To raise awareness of their importance, the threats they face, and their contribution to sustainable development, the UN has designated 20 May as World Bee Day (external link) and we are buzzing!
Australia currently has more than 1600 described and named bee species – but there could be as many as 2000 or 3000. Just like the European honeybee, Australian native bees are proficient pollinators, especially of our native plants. However very few of us know about the incredible diversity of Australian native bee species, which is why we’ve recently published not one, but two books on these amazing creatures!
A Guide to Native Bees of Australia written by Dr Terry Houston is an illustrated field guide that describes the form and function of bees, their life-cycle stages, nest architecture, sociality and relationships with plants. It also contains systematic accounts of the five families and 58 genera of Australian bees. The first part of the guide provides a general introduction to Australian native bees and gives the reader at least a basic grasp of their morphology, evolution, behaviour and ecology. The second part will enable the reader to identify some of the most common species and some of the most unusual or remarkable species to at least genus.
“Terry Houston’s new book on Australia’s native bees is a masterpiece. Only a specialist who has spent a lifetime working on a topic could have written such an insightful and comprehensive tome.”
Tim Heard, Metamorphosis Australia magazine, December 2018
James Dorey’s book, Bees of Australia: A Photographic Exploration, features stunning macro photographs of bees, most of which were taken during a road trip around Australia. The bee profiles are presented state-by-state (even though bees don’t always adhere to state lines) which can help readers search or identify species in their local area. The exquisite photography is enhanced by contributions from some of Australia’s leading bee researchers – an enthralling combination.
“A visual treat awaits those who open this recently published book by experienced nature photographer James Dorey… this beautiful book is sure to inspire people to go out and peer carefully into gardens, parks and habitats, looking for these fascinating pollinators. It may even encourage some to become researchers – a rich field when there is so very little known about the behaviour of most native bee species.”
Jenny Thynne, Wildlife Australia Magazine, Summer 2018
What’s all the buzz about Australian native bees?
- Bees are at the heart of our multi-billion-dollar agriculture industry, as 75% of our food crops rely on animal pollination.
- Only female bees will sting – they use a modified egg-laying appendage known as an ovipositor.
- Rather than congregating in hives, many of our bees live alone or in small groups. Some live in hollow twigs and stems, while others burrow into the ground. Certain species of male bees like to roost and hang out on ‘bachelor pads’.
- Native bees face serious threats: habitat loss, exotic species, climate change and pesticides are all impacting bee populations.
- The introduced European honeybee is both friend and foe. While it is efficient at pollinating many crops, it has done the same for unwanted weeds and has disrupted the habitats of many of our native bees, birds and mammals.
So we hope you take the time to celebrate the value and beauty of Australian native bees on World Bee Day on May 20 (and every other day of the year too).
Bee warned – you may want to buy both!
Female Megachile (Hackeriapis) aurifrons boast striking red eyes and orange facial hair (photo: Jean & Fred Hort)