Assets with Eyes

Bee native?

08 Oct 2020

How well do you know your bees? Did you know that the most famous species, the honey bee, is not native to Australia? This bee was introduced from Europe in about 1822 to produce honey for the English settlers and has been present in our bushland ever since.

Wild populations of introduced honey bee (Apis sp) are considered feral and there is evidence that honeybees impact on native fauna in two ways: competition for tree hollows; and competition for pollen and nectar. These impacts are considered so important that the feral honey bee has been identified in both NSW State and Commonwealth law as threatening to the survival or abundance of many native plant and animal species. At Sydney Olympic Park, feral bee swarms are removed to protect tree hollows for possums, microbats and parrots.

Feral honey bees are generalists and are very common at our flowers - almost any flower with pollen or nectar will work and they are more interested in harvesting the nectar than spreading the pollen. This can result in displacement of native fauna that also use these flowers, including birds and native bees. They can also reduce the number of seeds that native plants produce.

Australia has over 1,700 species of native bees with at least 15 known at Sydney Olympic Park so far.  Native bees have evolved with our wildflowers over millions of years making them particularly good pollination partners for specific sets of native plants. Most native bees are not part of a large, industrious hive as honeybees are, they tend to be solitary, focusing on gathering pollen from a handful of native plant species. They make their little homes in dead wood or burrows in undisturbed ground. Hidden away, these native bees rear a handful of young, each supplied by the female bee with their own personal ball of pollen, which is all they need to grow from egg to bee.

Native bees are vital for our bushland; they pollinate native plants which can’t be pollinated by the introduced honey bee. Check out the amazing Persoonia Bee which uses specially adapted front legs to scoop out nectar from Persoonia flowers. Some flowers even need to be vibrated to release pollen (buzz pollination), which many of our native bees such as the Blue-banded Bee can do.

If you take a quiet moment and watch the flowers at Sydney Olympic Park, you will notice that the creatures visiting are many and diverse. The honey bee is only one of thousands of species that can pollinate and may not be the bee that the flower is waiting for!

honey bee feeding in tea tree flowers Assets with Eyes
Feral Honey Bee Nest Assets with Eyes
Blue banded bee Assets with Eyes

A honey bee feeding in tea tree flowers at Sydney Olympic Park © Jen O’Meara

 Feral honey bee colony in a nest box designed to assist local parrots

The Blue-banded bee is one of many native bees to be found at Sydney Olympic Park © Jen O’Meara