There are approximately 20,000 species of bees known to the scientific world, and they are spread around the planet to varying degrees. But how many of those species can be found in Australia, and how many are natives to our Great Southern Land?
According to the most recent estimates, approximately 1,700 species of native bees exist in Australia, and, additionally, many more introduced species thrive within our eco-system (such as the Western European Honeybee). While this number estimates the total number of bee species present within the ecosystem, it is important to note that only 11 of these species live within social hierarchal populations, which usually denotes that they are hive-forming and capable of domestic honey partnerships.
The most commonly-observed native bees in Australia are:
- Stingless Bees (Tetragonula, Austroplebeia)
- Yellow & Black Carpenter Bees (Xylocopa/Koptortosoma)
- Green Carpenter Bees (Xylocopa/Lestis)
- Reed Bees (Exoneura and Braunsapis).
In Victoria, common bee types observed are:
- Reed Bees (Exoneura and Braunsapis);
- Blue Banded & Teddy Bear Bees (both Amegilla);
- Leafcutter & Resin Bees (both Megachile)
- Homalictus Bees (Homalictus)
- Masked Bees (Amphylaeus)
Each of these bee types have differing ecological profiles, particular with reference to their nesting habits, whether they create and store honey routinely, and the size of the colony they choose to live within.
The most commonly-observed honey-making native bee in Australia is the Stingless Bee (Tetragonula, Austroplebeia), as the species within this family of bees are among the few social bees in Australia that lives within a hive or brood comb where honey can be routinely stored. However, these native bees are not commonly partnered with in beekeeping farms – often European honeybees, who themselves are excellent nectar foragers, are used for domestic honey production.
As per bees all around the world, native Australian bees are under threat from various dangers, including:
- Climate Change
- Loss Of Habitat
- Disease (particularly parasites)
- Increased Competition from other bee types
Given that bees are extremely important to the ecosystem (as discussed in our article on the topic), it is extremely important to maintain the environment and bee populations. For this reason, conservationists have taken to improving bee habitats throughout Australia, so as to maintain ecological integrity.