In my earlier post on these bees I said how I hoped to get photos of the inside of a beehive in October, the month when Elke Haege, a Stingless Bee expert, resumes opening them up. Last Thursday I was lucky enough to see Elke service a hive at a home in Hurlstone Park.
The hive box was in a good position for getting sunshine until mid-morning. The box in this picture is actually the temporary placeholder, put there while Elke serviced the actual hive. You can just see some bees milling about in the sunlight above and behind the temporary box:
Near where I recently saw these bees, I came across a Honey Bee and a Carpenter Bee near each other in a Silky Grevillea (Grevillea sericea). The weather was a fair bit cooler than the last time, but while the Honey Bee could move around comfortably in the 15.5°C temperature, the Carpenter Bee was clearly struggling.
Last week’s wildflower photos included some blue-purple Hardenbergia flowers with a partially obscured solitary bee. That bee flew off before I could get another picture, so I went back later hoping to get another opportunity.
My first effort on a cool day was unsuccessful, but I had better luck on a warm (20°+C) sunny day. The patchwork of sunlight and shade meant that the bee was unevenly lit:
The weather has been pretty changeable lately, but over a week ago, I took my chances and went for an afternoon walk. The clouds were beginning to gather after a fine clear day, and looking up, I couldn’t see many birds.
Looking down, however, I could see lots of winter wildflowers. One was this Spider Grevillea (Grevillea speciosa):
Stingless Bees (Tetragonula carbonaria) or Sugarbag bees are much smaller and less noticeable than honey bees. Once they came to my attention though, I found them intriguing. I first spotted them in our front garden around a Crepe Myrtle. Their plain black upright silhouettes against a dark background made me think of sci-fi movie space pods:
Then I got closer to one on a Tecoma flower. I could see its stubbly white hair growth and the three simple eyes on the top of its head complementing its two larger compound eyes :
Wednesday, the 20th May, was officially named World Bee Day, honouring the importance of bees and other pollinators in the world’s ecosystems.
Bee Day is a recent Slovenian initiative, reflecting the great love of bee-keeping in that country. Its focus is almost entirely on the honey bee, even though honey bees comprise just 7 out of the 16,000 or so species of bees worldwide. This is a typical European Honey Bee (Apis mellifera), photographed in the Sydney Botanic Gardens:
Lately I’ve wondered whether the phrase “pollinator count” sends pollinators scurrying for a leaf to hide under. Last week, on several formal ‘pollinator counts’, I saw very few bees. For example, one count yielded only a blue-banded bee, a teddy bear bee, and a few honey bees. Another, no bees at all.
It was a different story on informal walks this week (though pollinator numbers were still smaller than they had been in summer). For example, a few days ago I saw a stand of Salvia flowers (Salvia leucantha?) in Waverton Bowling Club being visited by a variety of bees. First, this Teddy Bear Bee came in to land on a flower:
A few days ago to celebrate my recovery from a foot infection, I took a walk—an approved outing for socially distanced exercise, of course, where I just happened to be carrying a camera. This was also the week of the Autumn Wild Pollinator count so I wanted to make a couple of observations as well.
First stop was a Hibbertia plant where in the past I always saw bees. Now, alas, there were none. A Coastal Rosemary a few metres away was still half-dead from the drought, so again I saw no bees. Then I noticed another Hibbertia with just a few flowers on it, and yes! A bee! One bee after ten minutes of walking.
When I first saw this Blue-Banded Bee, she was grooming pollen granules out of her fur. Here, she is cleaning the underside of her left wing.
The bee's life is like a magic well: the more you draw from it, the more it fills with water
Karl von Frisch
In last week’s blog about Ginger Meggs and the Blue-banded Bees, I quoted expert advice that it can be hard to tell the different Blue-banded species apart by fur colour alone. So when I saw two different male Blue-banded Bees a few days ago, I was unsure whether they were of the same species. First there was this one, with lush golden-brown fur on its thorax and good blue iridescence in its stripes.
Last week I noted that there were fewer birds around, perhaps because of the smoke haze and the drought. The same was true for bees. After we finally had some rain a week ago, I walked over to a patch of Guinea Flowers (Hibbertia) where I usually see bees. I found few surviving flowers, and none of the usual bee visitors. However, I did see this Blue-banded Bee settling on one flower.
As she curled up to buzz the pollen, an orange shape appeared behind her: