I’ve written briefly about this bee before – it was this bee that was instrumental in my passion for nature and garden photography blooming. I love that they have made their home here where I live in the Dandenong Ranges and we see them every summer. Such beautiful bees.
Their official name is Amegilla cingulate.
The bee averages around 11mm in length and they have bands of metallic blue fur across their backs and their abdomens (although I’ve not seen their abdomens myself) and have huge eyes and tan coloured wings. Females have four bands and males have five, making it easy to distinguish which one you’re seeing.
These bees are solitary bees and so you won’t usually find them hanging out in a group. We do see 2 or 3 female bees often in the same salvia section in our garden but I’ve only really seen the males hang out in our vegetable garden section amongst the flowering herbs.
When they mate, the female builds a solitary nest for herself, usually in clay soil or sometimes in mudbricks. They will often build their nest in the same spot or close to one another almost like they’re in a village.
Although it is said they prefer blue and purple flowers, we generally see the females around our hotlip salvias which are red and white, or the red salvias down in our paddock. Only occasionally at other colours, whereas the male we’ve seen mainly by pink/purple flowers in the vegetable garden. That’s not to say they don’t go to other colours, it’s just what we’ve observed where we live.
I don’t find them scary at all and am not worried that they might sting – they’re not an agressive bee and while they may buzz past me if I’m getting to close to observe, they certainly haven’t been antagonistic. They just fly off somewhere else and go about their business.
They have a different buzz to the other bees in our garden and have this way of zigzagging when flying in short staccato movements.
The blue banded bee has an unusual way of pollinating by using buzz pollination. This can be very useful for crops such as tomatoes, berries, kiwi fruit, eggplants and chillies and they are one of very few bees that use this form of pollination. So very useful to Australian farmers.
The reason why buzz pollination is so good for them is that some pollen is held so firmly by the anthers (the part of the stamen that holds the pollen) that it needs extra assistance in breaking free – with the bees shaking their bodies rapidly on the stem of a flower, it helps flower to achieve this. This is particularly the case of tomato plants. I’ve often seen them on a blade of grass or a flower stem, doing just that – shaking their bodies and the plant they’re on.
The blue-banded bee can be found Australia wide, excepting Tasmania – but they have those cute fluffly bumble bees anyway which we don’t 🙂