Native bees are making a buzz
You may have seen blocks of wood perched in trees as you’ve been walking around our bushland recently. Kit Prendergast is doing a study of native bees and is using bee hotels to help determine what species are in Perth and the southwest. The native bees lay their eggs inside the bee hotels. Kit collects the brood cells, raises the young bees in the lab and identifies what hatches. You can see a native bee investigating a hole in a bee hotel in the photo above. There is also a completed brood cell at the bottom left. See more about Kit’s project and help her with your own bee sightings here - https://www.facebook.com/groups/1041684025880609/
Australia’s native bees provide a valuable service to the bushland. Our bees and plants have developed side by side and support each other perfectly. The bees get the pollen and nectar they need while the plants get pollinated.
While the introduced honeybee can pollinate some native plants, there are a great number that it can’t. It is just not equipped to do everything that our plants require. Just as our plants come in a variety of sizes, so do our native bees. With an estimated 800 species of native bee in Western Australia, there is one suited to most of our native plants.
Some of our bees are suited to specific types of flowers. We have some flowers that need to be buzz pollinated and we have bees expert at this technique. The flowers hold the pollen a bit like a salt shaker and require the bee to vibrate its body at just the right frequency for it to be released. Other flowers never open fully and the bee has to force its way in to get to the pollen. The honeybee can’t do either of these things so without the native bees these plants would not survive.
You might have natives bees in your garden as they’re not just found in the bushland. If you have a variety of flowering plants, and a few nooks and crannies for them to nest in, you could have a dozen or more species visiting your garden. Native bees live solitary lives, so they won’t be in huge numbers. And, as they don’t need to protect the hive, they’re not aggressive.
To watch them more closely you might consider installing a bee hotel. Basic bee hotels can be made by drilling holes of various sizes into timber (though bees don’t like pine). Or they can be as elaborate as you want them to be. Search for ‘bee hotel’ on the internet and see what others have made.