My last post was about blue-banded bees (Amegilla cingulata), which are common in North Sydney. Less well-known, though, are their larger cousins, the delightfully named teddy bear bees (Amegilla bombiformis).
The teddy bear moniker is quite appropriate, given the honey-brown fur over their bodies. Their Latin name bombiformis (“like a bumble-bee”) is also apt given their size and stocky bodies. Here’s one on a lime flower.
Depending on their gender, teddy bear bees have different numbers of abdominal bands-- 7 for males, 6 for females. They have similar habits to blue-banded bees, such as holding on to a branch by their jaws, both when sleeping (males only) and when grooming (brushing down pollen caught on their fur onto their hind legs). The image below is the only one I have of a teddy bear bee grooming. As well as being less common than the blue-banded bees, teddy bear bees are more inclined to keep their distance.
Around North Sydney, I’ve seen them on several of the same flowers as the blue-banded bees, including Setcreasea (purple heart) and rosemary. However the teddy bears seem to particularly favour large yellow guinea flowers such as this Hibbertia scandens for their picnics.
They also have a long “tongue” (technically maxillae, proboscis and labia), which shows clearly in the previous picture. This means that with suitably shaped flowers, they can feed on the wing like a humming bird or a hawk moth:
Other flowers are less suited to in-flight feeding, and some require buzz pollination – a capability teddy bear bees share with blue-banded bees. However the larger size of the teddy bear bee means that its buzz can really make the pollen fly. (Teddy Bear Dundee: “Call that a buzz? THIS is a buzz!”)
I’ve not seen a teddy bear bee’s nest. They are usually to be found at the end of a 10 cm burrow in a protected spot such as a creek bank. The burrow holds several eggs, each enclosed in its own cell with a food supply of pollen and nectar paste. Neither have I seen their main parasite, the domino cuckoo bee (Thyreus lugubris). Like other cuckoo bees, it lays its own egg in a host bee’s egg cell. The hatching grub then eats the supplies meant for the teddy bear bee larva.
The last two images show elements of the bee’s mouth structure. The powerful jaws (mandibles) can be seen in the first photo, while the second shows the maxillae, which with the labia and proboscis make up what I’ve loosely described as the bee’s tongue. (The maxillae are the slightly translucent pointed structures on either side of the out-of-focus leg.) But a bee’s mouthparts are complex, beyond the scope of a simple blog like this one.
North Sydney – my home suburb – holds Sydney’s second largest CBD. However its parks and bushland areas, and those of neighbouring councils such as Willoughby, host a surprising variety of native flora and fauna. These bush areas are maintained by dedicated council staff, often working with local resident volunteers.