Finally spotted one! I’ve been looking for a Blue Banded Bee since learning they are the likely creature behind the numerous holes and burrows found in sandstone in the area. These photos were taken over two days, the first day there was just one bee, the 2nd day there was a pair. They don’t stay still for long, it was hard to get focus and take the shot in time. I would have liked to get some better photos but this is all I could manage. I’m extra impressed now with the bright and clear photo’s others have taken that can be found in the links.
There are a number of species of Blue Banded bee found around the world. I’m pretty sure this one is Amegilla cingulata or the Common Blue Banded Bee which is a native of Australia. It’s found all over the country except Tasmania and the Northern Territory. They are solitary bees that build their nests in mud and soft sandstone, they’re also known to burrow into the mortar of old buildings.
The Common Blue Banded Bee is 8mm – 13mm long with a furry red brown thorax and blue and black stripes on it’s abdomen. Males have 5 stripes, females 4. The have a long tongue protected by a brown sheath that looks like a spike. They use this to pierce flower petals then feed on the sweet nectar. They live around 40 days, baby bees remain in their eggs over winter but several generations can hatch over the warmer months.
These little guys are always crawling about somewhere in the garden. I’d never looked them up before and had always assumed it was a local centipede but after some searching I think it’s the introduced species known as the Portuguese millipede.
I’d assumed it was a centipede because it didn’t have a huge number of legs. Generally millipedes have more legs than centipedes but despite the names centipedes don’t have exactly 100 legs and millipedes don’t have 1000. One of the ways you can tell what animal you’re dealing with is that centipedes have only one pair of legs per body segment while millipedes have two.
Portuguese millipedes were accidentally introduced to Australia in 1953 possibly in ship ballast. They may have been introduced on several separate occasions, they are now spread over large parts of South and Eastern Australia, they are also found around Perth in Western Australia. They have no known predators and can breed to plague proportions. In 2002 50 trains between Melbourne and Ballarat had to be cancelled or delayed because Portuguese millipedes on the rails had been squashed into a gooey paste that prevented the trains from getting traction!
I found this one in the bush just behind our house. While I was taking the photo I got bitten on the toe by a bulldog ant. Quite painful! It started with a mild sting then over 30 minutes became a strong dull ache over my whole toe. I can’t feel any pain now but from past experience it will flair up again tomorrow.
While in the garden I head a loud buzz coming from a bush. It was of low frequency and sounded like it belonged to something of decent size. After a short search I found it’s source, a single large chunky bee flying from flower to flower. It didn’t land and instead hovered briefly in front of one flower before moving to the next. It looked similar to a European honeybee but it was larger and chunkier. Despite several attempts I couldn’t get a sharp photo, below is the best of a bad bunch.
Teddy Bear bees are found in Eastern Australia ( possibly Australia wide) as well as New Guinea and the Aru Islands to the north. They are a solitary bee, females make a single nest in soil in places such as river banks and other sheltered locations.
In the bush nearby you can often see sections of sandstone that have clusters of regular sized holes around 10mm in diameter. Sometimes these pieces of sandstone are on a walking track where they get worn down to show the internal paths these holes take. I have a distant hazy memory of being told the holes are made by native bees. A bit of the old web searching brought up some more information!
The holes in sandstone are apparently the burrows of a native bee called the Blue Banded Bee. Blue Banded bees are found all over Australia except Tasmania and the Northern Territory. They are solitary bees that build their nests in mud and soft sandstone, they are also known to burrow into the mortar of old buildings.
I’ve not seen one of these bees myself so I don’t have a picture. They are described as being 8mm – 13mm long with a furry red brown thorax and blue and black stripes on it’s abdomen. They live around 40 days, baby bees remain in their eggs over winter but several generations can hatch over the warmer months. They are meant to be common, I’ll be keeping an eye out to try and get a picture.