Identifying Your Native Bees

7 Sep 2016

On an unusually cold summer's day in January I stumbled across this bee sitting on my young Kunzea bush. The cool temperature kept it inactive enough for me to take some great shots.

For us in the South West of Western Australia the signs of the imminent native bee season are so clear we can smell it!  It's a time of great excitement for us 'beeks' (short for bee geeks - the perfect term author Doug Purdie calls us!), with a promise of many hours ahead poised in front of flowers trying to capture the perfect image. Plus the aim is to find different species from previous years too. I'm up to 30 species in my garden.

 

For every great shot that I have of a bee I would have at least 50 blurry ones, as they don't often cooperate by striking a pose on each angle before flying away. 

 

For those that are a 'beek' beginner I thought I'd give you some photography tips and let you know where you can find help for identifying what you have captured on your camera. This bee from my garden has one tiny feature that distinguishes it as one particular species, I'll share this is a sec.

When taking a photo, aim to get a few angles of the bee; topside, its bum, the face and side view, as all have important features for ID purposes. Cameras with a macro lens are going to give you much clearer pictures.

 

The best sites for ID help on Facebook that I've found are the groups Australian Native Bee Network and Bee's in the 'Burbs in a Biodiversity Hotspot. There are so many other great pages for resources and ideas; Build a Bee Hotel, Bee Aware of Your Native Bees and Bees Business, just to name a few.

 

I would recommend that you visit the website: BowerBird (www.bowerbird.org.au). This is full of mind-blowingly bee-utiful photos of native bees under the project name Australian Bees. People from all over the country upload their backyard snaps and they're identified (if clear enough), by people like Australia's top native bee expert - Ken Walker - from Museum Victoria. You can also just scroll through the photos to see if you can find a match.

 

If you're keen to have your bees officially identified you can create your own profile on this site and begin uploading your images, it's all free. If identified, they're then recorded on the ALA (Atlas of Living Australia), which helps scientists and researchers keep a record of what species are being found in each region.

 

I have uploaded a few of my photos and want to share how exciting this can be for us Beeks!

 

As I mentioned, on an unusually cold summer's day I stumbled across this bee and the cool temperature kept it inactive enough for me to take some great macro shots. I uploaded the images to my BowerBird profile and this was the response from Ken Walker.....

 

"What a beautiful bee. I think it is a male - male and female Euryglossa are difficult to separate unless examined under the microscope. I have not seen the combination of colours shown in your image. ALA lists only 3 species of Euryglossa in your region: Euryglossa cupreochalybea, Euryglossa rubricata and Euryglossa schomburgki. The one of these species that has the yellow collar of hair behind the head is Euryglossa rubricata. It could be the male of this species which I have never seen. Thanks for sharing. Ken"

 

Now that's the most exciting thing I could have ever read! To be able to show THE native bee expert something he's never seen before gave me the biggest buzz!! And the feature that helped ID it - is the tiny tuft of yellow hair behind its head you can see in the below photo.

And that my friends, is exactly what you can do out in your garden. Just get out there and start snapping away. New species are still being found and you could have one right there in your backyard! This is citizen science at its very best!

 

Contact me if you would like me to come and present a Native Bee Talk in your area

tracy@greentreenaturopathy.com.au

 

Green Tree Blessings x

 

 

 

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Tracy Lansdell

Adv.Dip.App.Sc (Naturopathy),

Member of ATMS

Green Tree Naturopathy

51 James Street 

North Greenbushes WA 6254

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