Blue Banded Bee

(Amegilla cingulata)

 

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumArthropoda
ClassInsecta
OrderHymenoptera
FamilyApidae
GenusAmegilla
SpeciesA. cingulata

Distribution

Blue-banded bee - Distribution Map

Other Common Names

None

Description

The Common Blue-banded Bee (Amegilla cingulata) is a very attractive Australian native bee that is found in coastal areas of Queensland and New South Wales. However, there are several near-identical Amegilla species which can be found right across mainland Australia.

Blue-banded Bees are around 8-12mm in length and at first glance may appear similar to the familiar, exotic honeybee. A closer inspection, however, will reveal several differences, the most obvious of these being the colour of the abdominal bands from which the species takes its common name.

These bands vary in colour, and may be anywhere from a vibrant, metallic blue through to white or pale yellow. They also provide a somewhat easy way to determine the sex of Blue-banded bees, with males displaying five blue bands compared to the females’ four.

In addition to the number of bands, the sexes also differ in the size of their facial markings – though you’d have to be looking very closely to spot them! In general, males tend to have much smaller black facial marks than the females, although this may vary with species.

Behaviour

Common Blue-banded Bees are very placid compared to their European Honeybee counterparts. They can still sting, however, so I wouldn’t recommend handling them.

They can be very curious, too. On numerous occasions, I have had one stop foraging to “eyeball” me at close range. I’m not sure if this is actually curiosity or some kind of warning behaviour, so I tend to give them a little more space to be on the safe side.

Compared to European Honeybees, Common Blue-Banded Bees display a very distinctive flight pattern. They tend to dart around much more rapidly, and often stop to hover – an ability that the Honeybee is unable to duplicate. Blue-banded Bees are also noticeably louder in flight.

Blue-banded Bees possess one other, major skill that Honeybees do not – the ability to “Buzz pollinate” flowers. This is where the bee will tightly grip the anthers of a flower and vibrate rapidly, causing it to release more pollen.

Technically known as “sonication”, this technique results in increased crop yields for some plants. Therefore, trials are underway to see if Blue-banded Bees can be used in agriculture for this purpose.

Nests

Common Blue-banded Bees are a solitary species. They don’t live in social hives, instead, individual females use their jaws to dig a single-chambered nest in which to lay their eggs. These nests are usually found in locations like river banks, exposed soil, mud bricks, or soft mortar.

Despite being solitary, females usually like to build their nest in locations where other Blue-banded Bee nests are already present. Once a nest chamber is built, females will line a number of cells with waterproof secretions. An egg is laid in the deepest cell, which is then stocked with nectar and pollen, and sealed. This process is continued until all of the cells are filled.

Unlike female Blue-banded Bees, males do not construct a nest. Instead, as each night falls, they roost together in small groups, clinging to long grass or thin twigs with their mandibles. These roosts are often located close to nesting sites.

Habitat

Gardens, Heathland, Forests and Woodland.

Suggested Nectar Plants

While there are some claims that Blue-Banded Bees have a preference towards blue flowers, this has not been shown to be the case.

Plants that they enjoy foraging upon include:

* exotic

Similar Species

Many other Amegilla species are very similar to the Common Blue-banded Bee (Amegilla cingulata).

Further Reading

Australian Native Bees - agGuide Series

Australian Native Bees – agGuide Series (2016)

by Anne Dollin, Katja Hogendoorn, Tim Heard, Saul Cunningham, Romina Rader, Manu Saunders, Tanya Latty, Caragh Threlfell, Tobias Smith, Megan Halcroft,  and Danielle Lloyd-Prichard

CSIRO Publishing