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Blue-banded bees

G10th March 2007

C81 Comments

Tenvironment, photography, plants

I’ve only recently discovered the existence of these brightly-coloured native Australian bees.

I was visiting my parents a few weeks ago when I made an exciting entomological ‘discovery’ in the garden. Whilst looking at the plants, I saw a different and unfamiliar bee-like creature hovering near some flowers. It turned out to be a ‘blue-banded bee’ – I’d never seen one before!

This blue-banded bee (Amegilla cingulata) is taking an interest in Verbena flowers.

The blue-banded bees caught my eye because of their iridescent colour and because they hovered. This is something English bees (Apis mellifera) cannot do. The blue-banded bees also moved between flowers much faster than English bees which made photographing and observing them very difficult!

Blue-banded bees (Amegilla cingulata) are native to Australia, but also occur naturally in Papua New Guinea, East Timor, Indonesia and Malaysia. Unlike other bee species, blue-banded bees are solitary insects. They typically build nests in sandstone, mud or the mortar-gaps in the brickwork of houses.

Detail of a blue-banded bee.

Blue-banded bees specialise in an unusual sort of flower pollination called ‘buzz pollination’. Normally flowers release pollen passively, but some species are specially designed to be pollinated by ‘buzz pollinators’ that grab onto the flowers and vibrate them quickly to release the pollen.

The tomato is a common example of a species that relies on ‘buzz pollination’. Without appropriate pollinators, commercial tomato yields are significantly reduced. In Australian glasshouse-based tomato farms, there is no common buzz pollinator available, so tomato growers are forced to use an “electric bee” vibrator to pollinate flowers. This is very labour intensive and adds cost to the final product.

So as a labour- and cost-saving remedy, tomato growers want the Commonwealth Government to allow the introduction of the European bumble bee (Bombus terrestris) as a glasshouse pollinator for their crops, despite the negative environmental consequences that would result. However the University of Adelaide has recently demonstrated that native blue-banded bees were just as effective glasshouse pollinators as bumble bees. Research is now focussed on the commercialisation of blue-banded bees for the tomato industry.

So in the future, there may be a big role for the humble blue-banded bee in industry. But in the interim, I hope to see more of these interesting insects buzz-pollinating the plants in the garden.



81 responses to “Blue-banded bees”

  • Written by dbz lover on 1 June 2009:

    how many specis of blue banded bees are their were not working for mum squed plz

  • Written by Goku on 1 June 2009:

    plz we eed to know ths Adam

  • Written by S.R.P.S. on 1 June 2009:

    Hi I’m doing a school project and need to Know the answers urgently because it is due on thursday. Does the blue banded bee have 17 species, Does it live near caboolture river and is it dying because of pesticides?

    Can you please replt to this before thursday

  • Written by S.R.P.S. on 1 June 2009:

    We need to Know!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 🙂

  • Written by S.R.P.S. on 1 June 2009:

    Adam can you please answer

  • Written by S.R.P.S. on 1 June 2009:

    My friends say hi coz they are working on the project with me

  • Written by Mum on 1 June 2009:

    Hi S.R.P.S and Goku and everyone else doing Murder Under the Microscope.
    The answers you seek are readily found in many articles you can source on the web. Why don’t you try doing some research and then reading what you find – that’s what Murder Under the Microscope is all about. It is sad that you expect someone to give you the answers.
    I too have discovered this blog whilst doing research and have been quite excited in discovering this bee and other native bees. I have started looking in my garden too.
    Kids, start researching !!!!! By the way, are you sure you have the right victim?


  • Written by layla on 1 June 2009:

    get a clue people give some good answers!!!!

  • Written by Maddie on 1 June 2009:

    I was looking for answers for murder under the microscope and I found NONE!
    Not on.

  • Written by Hayley on 1 June 2009:

    I was looking for the threats towards blue banded bees and all you babbled on about was about your trip to your parents and You You and….YOU!!!!!

  • Written by Zahara on 1 June 2009:

    To S.R.P.S,
    I know that you are working on MUM coz the accusation day is thursday and those items are on the list.

    Iwill tell you that the Victim is the long-tailed macaque.

  • Written by kaushal sonah on 1 June 2009:

    Hi can i speak to Zahara.
    Kidding if this is Zahara you are on murder under microscope.Ok you mite know that.But can you pleas call me on 62597723 as soon as posilble. And i don’t suddy muder under the microscope.where do blue banded bees live.

    Amen i mean thanks

  • Written by joe on 1 June 2009:

    busted tj hey ben i am in tjs class and we are doing mum.
    I was looking for answers here too but i will have to go to another site. great pics adam. by the way is the blue banded bee threatened by the varroa mite . kidding. again busted tj.

  • Written by Chicken 24 on 1 June 2009:

    Hi I’m doing MuM too!! Go do some research, OK???

  • Written by Zahara on 2 June 2009:

    Remember its the long tailed-macaque, and the tweed river and the sewage.

    The real zahara
    MuM office

  • Written by MrNugget on 2 June 2009:

    I’m doing mum too!!!

  • Written by Taylah on 2 June 2009:

    no its not that victim dont listen to her its fake find the victim your own way!


  • Written by Maddi & Montanna on 2 June 2009:

    This was helpful because you have help us solve 1-3 things in Murder under the microscope 2009… Thank you

  • Written by barbie doll on 2 June 2009:

    What are the threats to the blue-banded bee?
    I am really interested in this amazing creature!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Written by anna on 2 June 2009:

    do you know how many species of blue-banded bees there are?
    it would be much appriciated if you could tell me
    thank you

  • Written by anna on 2 June 2009:

    stop flipping ppl off with your fake accusations
    some ppl arent stupid
    (can u tell me about the amount of species plz)
    thx again

  • Written by liz on 2 June 2009:

    no, blue-banded bees are the victims, unatural cold weather and genetically modified crops(illegal) is the villan!

  • Written by Bob on 2 June 2009:

    How do Blue banded bees die?

  • Written by bret on 2 June 2009:

    does the blue bandid bee’s scales change colour beacause of the weather

  • Written by PETER EM on 6 June 2009:

    We are building the Clay nests in Melbourne to attrct the Blue Banded Bee to our area.
    What plants apart from Rosemary and Lavender attracts them to our garden?
    IE:Assuming that they do live in our area.

  • Written by Samantha on 14 June 2009:

    Blue banded bees die because of habitat clearing and pesticides. in winter all the adult Blue Banded Bees die after they hav layed there eggs. the hatchlings hatch in the following Spring.

    I hope i have helped solve some of your problems

  • Written by Dynamite Diva no.2 on 15 June 2009:

    That was a very informative blog adam
    also very helpful in murder under the microscope
    Blue Banded Bees major killer is habitat clearing, and i have been closly investigating the causes and effects of predators on blue banded bees.
    Thanks for a very informative article adam

  • Written by kstar on 15 June 2009:

    OMG! you actually could take photos of them? I’ve been up all day waiting for them, and when they came out, i was running everywhere trying to take photos, so good on you!

  • Written by Flower Power on 16 June 2009:

    Blue Banded Bees r cool, what would we do without them?

  • Written by smarty panteo on 17 June 2009:

    u r sooooo lucky
    did you know,the bee you are studying
    dies in winter?!?!
    it is annoyed by the varroa mite
    and loves purple plants!!!

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