Native Bees

Australia has over 1500 species of native bees and they come in a range of sizes 2mm – 24mm. Commercial (European)Honey bees, the ones most people would recognise as a bee, are introduced. Native bees are essential for pollinating many of our native species and some plants such as flax-lilies and hibbertias need buzz or vibration pollinating, which European bees don’t do but the native Blue banded bees does do. Learn more about Pollination and pollinators on our page about butterflies and other insects.

We are losing native bee habitat as areas become more urbanised and we can make a difference to their future survival by what we do in our gardens. If we are too tidy in the garden we may be removing potential nesting sites.

Many are solitary and have solitary nest and don’t live together in a colony. Dead pithy stems are used by reed bees, some bees nest in the ground and need a clear area not covered by mulch, so leave some firm bare undisturbed soil. Some live in small holes in wood or stems.

Most native bees are not aggressive so you don’t have to worry about having them in the garden but they can still sting but usually too small to cause much pain. Unlike the honey bee they don’t have a barb and may sting more than once. If you are allergic to honey bees then you may also react to native bees.

bees rest on daisies

bees like small pea flowers

Blue-banded bee

plant lots of daisies

What we can do for native bees?

Native bees do well in urban areas with the right sort of flowers. Bees need pollen and nectar and access year round to flowers, so consider this when choosing plants. They have a foraging range of less than 2km so may also be foraging in your neighbour's garden.

Some bees are said to be selective and only visit certain native plants. Consider plants with flatter flowers like baeckea, leptospermum, eucalypts, calytrix and Kunzea ambigua. Also look at westringias, mint bushes and other members of the mint family.

Daisies are popular with a range of insects and look for single open flowers not frilly double ones.

Bee Hotels

We can make artificial nest sites. Some nest in clay walls or you can make a block out of clay and put holes into it.

You may like to buy or build a bee hotel out of wood for different native bees.

  • Holes may be drilled in a block of hardwood (or wooden fence post), smooth off rough edges. The holes need to be 3-10mm wide and up to 150mm deep.

  • Face the box north-east and off the ground

  • Be patient sometimes it takes a while for native bees to find the holes

  • Check the internet for ideas on how to make a bee hotel

Readymade bee hotels are not always designed specifically for bees. Make sure the holes are the right diameter and there are no big holes in which a spider may live, you may just be providing a good source of food for spiders instead of a bee haven.

Building a pollinator nest

make your own bee hotel

3-10mm wide and up to 150mm deep.

avoid large holes

  • Face the box north-east and off the ground