July 31, 2013

Most of our native bees don’t quite match the perception of how a bee should look or behave. They do not form hives or live in swarms; they generally live in burrows within the ground; and many are relatively small and unassuming. However, they are fascinating members of our ecologies, and deserving of our attention (particularly as they play a role in the pollination of a great number of plant species, both native and exotic).

The South Island species that is pictured above and below is the most colourful of our native bees, Leioproctus fulvescens. Although they have quite cosmopolitan tastes, members of the daisy family (such as the Olearia cymbifolia shown in these images) are important sources of pollen for L. fulvescens. On a sunny day in the Mackenzie Basin, large numbers of this conspicuous bee can be viewed going about their business.

Flax (Phormium spp.) do not just extend their largesse towards our native birds (who avidly feed upon their nectar), as shown by the Leioproctus sp. pictured below, which was emerging from a Phormium tenax flower in West Auckland. It clearly displays the ‘pollen pellets’ that bees collect on their hind legs as they harvest, a feature that is also evident in the photograph of Leioproctus fulvescens above.

The other bee that is pictured below, which I presumed to be a species of Lasioglossum, was one of many native pollinators (including a striking species of hoverfly) that were making the most of Hebe parviflora‘s abundant flowering.

The final image shows an individual of Leioproctus fulvescens visiting a Celmisia gracilenta flower amidst degraded tussockland near the Glenmore Tarns. Amidst all of the legitimate concern regarding the decline of honeybees throughout the world, it is also important to be conscious of maintaining healthy populations of other pollinators from our environments (such as native bees, butterflies and New Zealand’s diverse and significant range of fly species).