If you would like to participate in this group or make a suggestion, contact me at peterabbott@iinet.net.au or on 0421 227 315.

Peter Abbott

Native Bee SIG Coordinator

Upcoming Activities

Native Bee Identification Workshop Sat 28 March 2pm POSTPONED

Interested in identifying the native bees in your garden?  A small workshop will be held at my house in Yarralumla on Saturday 28 March at 2pm. We will look at some basic information that will help you to identify the native bees in the Canberra region. The Workshop will focus on the visual clues that can assist with ID without getting too deeply into the more complex world of taxonomy. We will also examine available resources such as books and online programs that can help with ID. If you have specimens or photos, bring them along. If you would like to come, please let me know by email or text message – see contact details above.

Native bees in the ACT

Australia has at least 1600 species of native bees – they come in a wide variety of colours and range in size from 3 to 25mm. Native bees play a vitally important role in the pollination of native plants but are also significant pollinators of exotic plants and agricultural crops.

In recent years, interest in native bees, both the social stingless bees, which can be kept in artificial hives, and solitary bees has grown significantly – helped by some excellent recent publications. While the ACT is too cold for the stingless bees, we have a wide variety of native solitary bees nesting in the ground, in wooden cavities or in hollow stems. The exact number of native solitary bee species in the ACT is not known, but likely be around 150-200.

Spotting and identifying native bees

Spotting native bees can be challenging. Many are small and our attention is drawn to the generally more numerous honey bees.  A little more patience is required to stop and look closely at flowering plants, particularly native plants. You will often be surprised by the variety of colourful native bees that can be found in your garden and in parkland. The Australian National Botanical Gardens is a particularly rich source of native bees.

Identifying native bees to the species level can be difficult, but several recent publications can help get us to the genus level and beyond – an exciting challenge. See the publication list below.

Native bees can be encouraged to visit our gardens by providing good nectar-bearing flowering plants and appropriate nesting environments, some of which can be man-made.

Activities of the Native Bee SIG

  1. Photographing and identifying native bees in the ACT.
  2. Adding the information to the Canberra Nature Map or iNaturalist Australia website which will be transferred to the Atlas of Living Australia website.
  3. Making native bee homes for gardens, the Jerrabomberra apiary or other locations.
  4. Giving presentations and demonstrations on native bees to interested groups to increase public awareness of native bees.
  5. Encouraging use of appropriate garden and park vegetation to support native bee populations.

Native bee publications

  1. Australian Native Bees – A Practical Handbook  An Ag Guide by NSW Dept of Primary Industries (2016) – an excellent introduction to native bees.
  2. The Australian Native Bee Book by Tim Heard (2016) – everything you need to know about keeping stingless bees.
  3. A Guide to Native Bees of Australia by Terry Houston (2018) – a comprehensive analysis and identification guide.
  4. The Australia Bee Genera by Tobias Smith University of New England (2018) – an annotated user-friendly key to identification.
  5. Bees of Australia by James Dorey (2018) – A photographic exploration.