Blue Banded Bees (25 species in Australia)
The beautiful Blue Banded Bee has a furry golden thorax and iridescent blue or white stripes on a glossy black abdomen. They grow to 11-12mm. These are ‘solitary’ bees but females may build nests together in the same place.
Adult blue banded bees fly only in warm months of the year (October to April) and die before the winter. Immature bees remain sealed in their cells inside the nests during the winter. They develop into adults and emerge when the warm weather returns.
After mating, female blue banded bees build a nest hole in soft sandstone or clay. Cells at the end contain an egg and food (pollen and nectar) for the larvae when it emerges. Males don’t build nests. They roost for the night clinging to plant stems, fighting for the top spot! (see my photos of blue banded males, settling down for the night on knotted club rush (Ficinia nodosa).
The males have five complete bands and females have four. Blue Banded Bees have large bulging eyes with multiple lenses, and a long ‘tongue’ that enables them to extract nectar from trumpet shaped flowers.They can hover and perform ‘buzz pollination’ on plants such as Dianella revoluta. The honey bee, Apis mellifera, cannot buzz-pollinate. Bees capable of buzz-pollinating clamp their legs onto the anther of the flower and contract their flight muscles so vigorously that the pollen is released.