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:
But when the bee took off, I got a better view of its head. It was indeed similar to the bee in my last post.
It then flew off into a darker area, and I lost sight of it:
I kept my eyes on the Hardenbergia, however, and was rewarded a couple of minutes later by a flash of honey-brown/orange moving in the patchy sunlight between the flowers. The new bee settled on a flower, allowing me to see some of its bright fur colour.
It moved a little further into the sunlight:
Eventually it lifted off into full sunlight, and I could see that it was similar to the first bee, but with much more intense colouring:
Glowing in the sun’s rays, it was one of the most strikingly coloured bees I’ve seen:
The contrast of colours between the sunlit bee and the vivid violets and gentian blues of the flowers was quite beautiful;
Even in deeper shade it still looked lovely, with the lighter background revealing the kink in its left antenna:
At another flower, the bee was backlit, revealing more of the colours of the hairs on its thorax, head and legs:
The bee foraged on several more flowers before it eventually flew off.
I’m pretty sure that both bees belonged to the Megachile tribe, based on their body shapes and hairy undersides.
The first one looked similar to the bee I christened Ginger Meggs in a previous post. That would mean it’s a leafcutter bee, Megachile maculariformis, or a close relative, but that’s about as far as I can go. There are many superficially similar species in the more populous families such as the Megachilids, and native bee taxonomy is an intricate and complex area where even experts sometimes disagree.
The second bee is probably another species of Megachilid, but a dip into several illustrated bee guides didn’t turn up anything matching those spectacularly orange-brown thorax hairs and hind legs, so more than that I can't say.
One of the guides I turned to for help was the Bee Hotel ID Guide, an excellent primer on native bees by Megan Halcroft and Michael Batley. Another was Terry Houston’s Guide to Native Bees of Australia, which is a far more detailed and technical work covering most of Australia’s 2000 bee species, and includes a “further reading” section.