Did you know there are over 25,000 species of bees in the world? From those, only about 10 are the ‘true’ honey bee that we associate with Pooh-bear and his pots of honey. European honeybees (Apis mellifera) were introduced into Australia in 1822. We do not have any bumblebee species on mainland Australia, however a species of bumblebee was accidentally introduced to Tasmania in 1992.
In Australia, we have ~2000 species, about 8% of the worlds species. Most of these are solitary, raising young in burrows in the ground or small borer holes in trees. There is not a queen, worker or drone, but rather a single female who raises an individual nest similar to a bird. Although they have stingers, most Australian bees stingers are too small to deliver a proper sting! You are actually more likely to be bitten (by their mandibles/jaws) than stung by a native bee. Oh, the irony of having stingless bees in Australia – when we have the most poisonous snakes, spiders and marine animals!
Many of our native bees are closer in look to wasps, sometimes quite difficult to tell apart from them. We boast the smallest bee species in the world, at 2m (Quasihesma)! We managed to get to the new book launch of ‘A Guide to Native Bees in Australia‘ and listened to Dr Terry Houston speak about the research he put in to developing the first comprehensive guide to Australia’s bees. Exceptionally interesting!
(Photo from https://www.aussiebee.com.au)
In cold climates, an insect hotel is a hibernation place for insects. In the summer it is a nesting place. An advantage of a hibernation place is that all the insects are in your garden as spring starts. In warm climates the function of the hotel is for nesting and so that insects can find a dry place in the wet season. An optimal habitat for insects in the garden, orchard or food forest stimulates the diversity of insects. The result of diversity is an improvement of the ecological balance in the garden.
A hotel is also an indirect exterminator itself. Insects such as lacewings, hoverfly, ladybugs, beetles and earwigs destroy the lice and mites. Other insects that are attracted to the hotel are native bees, wasps and bumblebees….for the rest of the article and instructions, click here!