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To Bee or not to bee?

February 11, 2016

Blue Banded Bee DSCN6573-001In a recent photo competition run by the Upper Goulburn Landcare Network one of the most popular subjects was the Blue-banded Bee (Amegilla cingulate), pictured above. Speaking to the photographers it appeared that this was the first time that they had seen these striking insects in their respective localities. Indeed a blog on this very insect was posted recently for that exact reason.

Last week I noticed an insect digging in a bare sandy patch in the garden that that looked at a distance remarkably like the aforementioned bee. In fact up close it was a dead-ringer. The insect was a Sand Wasp (Bembix sp.), which also featured in a blog last year (pictured below).Sand Wasp (Bembix sp) DSCN7120-001

Both insects display striking blue bands on their abdomens. The adults of both insects are nectar feeders. They have the ability to sting but are not easily annoyed. Both insects build tunnels underground in which to lay their eggs.

The difference? Well obviously one is a wasp and the other a bee. The Blue-banded Bee larvae are fed on nectar while larvae of the Sand Wasp feed on paralysed spiders. Adult Sand Wasp jaws are much larger so that they can carry those spiders off to the tunnel, and their thorax is not as hairy as that of the bees.

None of this really matters…unless you are a spider. It is hard to get close enough to either insect to notice the physical differences. We should just celebrate the diversity – even if we can’t at first glance tell them apart.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Geoff Leslie permalink
    February 12, 2016 8:23 am

    There is a Facebook page dedicated to this critter. It says “Currently, several scientific organizations are conducting research on how the blue-banded bee benefits agriculture through its distinctive “buzz pollination”. These bees are very important for the production of food and contribute to at least 30% of crops in Australia….The male can be distinguished by the number of complete bands, having five as opposed to the females’ four. So we can pronounce the chap in the first photo to be (or even bee) a male.

  2. marian permalink
    February 12, 2016 7:32 pm


    • ronlit permalink*
      February 17, 2016 10:05 am

      Hi Marian, As well as the Blue-banded Bees (they are bigger than normal bees) what are also on our blue flowers are a smaller blue bee called a Neon Cuckoo Bee. It sounds like you have them as well. As the name suggests they lay their eggs in other bee nests and let another species rear the young. R

  3. February 29, 2016 12:22 am

    Hi, great blog, fascinating insects. I have been obsessed with Fire-tailed Resin Bees, which have been nesting in my verandah. Post on them here: Cheers.


  1. The blue-banded B&B is open for business | Focus On Fauna

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