I was out in the vege garden early yesterday morning and suddenly realised that I was seeing far more bees than I had for a long time. It was early enough that the native bees greatly outnumbered the European honeybees. Our social native bees get up much earlier than the foreigners. I think it was Tim Heard (“Mr Native Bees” in this part of the world) who first put me onto this at one of his one-day workshops. Whoever it was told the story of the researcher who was looking into the pollination of the vast Macadamia nut orchards in northern New South Wales and discovered that by the time the European honeybees had got out of their (expensively rented) hives, the Macadamia flowers had already been pollinated by local native bees.
The bees I was watching yesterday were Tetragonula* carbonaria, one of more than 2,000 species of native bees in Australia, and one of only ten social species among the Australian native bees. We also regularly get Blue-banded Bees (Amegilla cingulata) in our garden (a solitary species), and I’m sure there must be many more that I haven’t noticed yet.
There were a lot of flowers for them to choose from because I’m letting a lot of things go to seed, like Loose-leaf Lettuce, Radish, Amaranth, Ceylon Spinach (can you stop it from going to seed?), and a whole range of Asian Brassicas.
You can find useful links to information about Australian native bees here. If you are interested in the reasons for the recent change of the name of the Trigona genus (to which our small native bees used to belong) to Tetragonula there’s an account here, with links to even more information.