BeesBees Anatomy Bee Behaviour Blogging Bees… Amegilla Bee Apis mellifera Austroplebeia australis Austrothurgus rubricatus Ceylalictus perditellus Colletidae Euryglossinae Exoneura Homalictus Hyleoides bivulnerata Lasioglossum Lipotriches Megachile Meroglossa Stenotritidae Thyreus Xylocopa

Bees belong to the Order Hymenoptera, that includes wasps, ants and sawflies, within Suborder Apocrita and Superfamily Apoidea. They are presently considered a clade, called Anthophila. There is considered to be over 20,000 bee species worldwide, living on every continent except Antarctica. They live in a range of ecosystems from forest, grasslands and arid desert regions.

In Australia there are four main bee families: Apidae, Colletidae, Halictidae and Megachilidae. There is thought to be some 2,000 species of native bees in Australia.1 Collectively many of these bees are called bush bees, native bees, native bush bees, and stingless bees, and some specific genus and species having their own common name, such as the Golden-browed Resin Bee and the Masked Bee. Whilst the majority of species of Australian native bees do sting, there are approximately 11 species that do not sting.

Bush Bee and Native Bee

Of the Australian native bees, very few produce honey stores that of any useful amount for humans. Of those that do, they are the social stingless or sugarbag bees, Austroplebeia and Tetragonula species, that are found in northern and eastern Australia. These same bees build nests from a secreted wax mixed with resin, and were commonly and traditionally used by Aboriginal people for their honey and their wax.

More importantly, the native bees provide an invaluable pollination service, that are important not only for local flora, but also for many of our crop plants.

Lipotriches (Austranomia) australica © Gary Taylor
Lipotriches (Austranomia) australica © Gary Taylor

The most recognised and cultivated bee is the Western Honey Bee, also known as the European Honey Bee, used in the production of honey.

European Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) on a Cape honeysuckle (Tecoma capensis)
European Honey Bee (Apis mellifera)
Solitary Bee

Solitary bees consist of about 75% to 90% of species, among which include the mason bees, carpenter bees, leafcutters bees, and sweat bees. The rest of the species of bees live socially in colonies and include the honey bees, bumblebees and stingless bees.

Golden-browed Resin Bee (Megachile aurifrons), Alice Springs, NT
Golden-browed Resin Bee (Megachile aurifrons)

Bees vary in size and actually come in a variety of colours, including, red, blue, green, yellow, black and white. Some species have stripes and other a metallic sheen.

Amegilla (Notomegilla) chlorocyanea on Mulla Mulla at Kennedy Range WA © Marc Newman
Amegilla (Notomegilla) chlorocyanea on Mulla Mulla at Kennedy Range WA © Marc Newman
Hylaeus (Rhodohylaeus) maiellus, Ballandean QLD © Marc Newman
Hylaeus (Rhodohylaeus) maiellus, Ballandean QLD © Marc Newman

With the growing interest in the many bee species, there is a lot more information available in publications and online. Further support can be found in a number of Facebook groups, online resources such as Atlas of Living Australia and iNaturalistAU, and local naturalist clubs.

Waroona Cuckoo Bee (Thyreus waroonensis) © Gary Taylor
Waroona Cuckoo Bee (Thyreus waroonensis) © Gary Taylor

You can check out some of the great blogs by Gary Taylor, whose passion among many things includes the native bees:

You can also check out some of the great blogs and contribution by Marc Newman, whose passion among many things includes the native bees:


  • Scientific classification
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Class: Insecta
  • Order: Hymenoptera
  • (unranked): Unicalcarida
  • Suborder: Apocrita
  • Superfamily: Apoidea
  • Clade: Anthophila
  • Families:
    • Andrenidae
    • Apidae
    • Colletidae
    • Halictidae
    • Megachilidae
    • Melittidae
    • Stenotritidae
  • Synonyms: Apiformes
Homalictus urbanus, Alice Springs, NT
Homalictus urbanus, Alice Springs, NT

Footnote & References

  1. Can you beelieve?! Our guide to native bees, by Eliza Keckm, 30 Aug 2018, CSIROscope, https://blog.csiro.au/can-you-beelieve-our-guide-to-native-bees/
  2. Bee Aware of Your Native Bees (Australia), Facebook group, https://www.facebook.com/groups/1493769094196721
  3. Which native bees are in your area?, Aussie Bee, https://www.aussiebee.com.au/beesinyourarea.html
  4. Hymenoptera, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hymenoptera (last visited Dec. 7, 2021)
  5. Bees: Suborder Apocrita, Author David Britton, Australian Museum, https://australian.museum/learn/animals/insects/bees-suborder-apocrita/
  6. The Bee Hotel ID Guide, Written by Megan Halcroft and Michael Batley, University of Westen Sydney, https://www.beesbusiness.com.au/articles/Halcroft_and_Batley_The_Bee_Hotel_ID_Guide.pdf
  7. Bee, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bee (last visited Dec. 7, 2021)
  8. Bees, The National Wildlife Federation, https://www.nwf.org/Educational-Resources/Wildlife-Guide/Invertebrates/Bees
  9. How to make a native bee hotel, Words and images by Kit Prendergast (BSc, PhD researcher at Curtin University), About The Garden Pty Ltd, https://www.aboutthegarden.com.au/how-to-make-a-native-bee-hotel/
  10. What do bees look like?, Australian Museum, https://australian.museum/learn/species-identification/ask-an-expert/what-do-bees-look-like/
  11. Protect and Enjoy the 1,700 Species of Australian Native Bees…, Aussie Bee, https://www.aussiebee.com.au/
  12. A Guide to Native Bees of Australia, by Dr Terry Houston, CSIRO Publishing, ISBN 978-1-4863-0406-6
  13. A photographic guide to Australia’s bees, by Australian Geographic, photographer James Dorey, 20 June 2017, https://www.australiangeographic.com.au/topics/wildlife/2017/06/the-secret-life-of-bees/
  14. Bees of Australia, A Photographic Exploration, by James Dorey, CSIRO Publishing, ISBN: 9781486308491
  15. Bees of Australia: up close with native species – in pictures, The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/gallery/2018/oct/29/bees-of-australia-up-close-with-native-species-in-pictures

BeesBees Anatomy Bees Antenna It’s in the eyes Pre-pygidial fimbria Wings of the bee Bee Behaviour Bubbling Bees Buzz Pollination Operculum lifting behaviour Blogging Bees… Amegilla Bee Amegilla adelaidae Amegilla asserta Amegilla chlorocyanea Amegilla walkeri Teddy Bear Bees Apis mellifera Austroplebeia australis Austrothurgus rubricatus Ceylalictus perditellus Colletidae Hylaeus spp – Masked Bee Leioproctus Neopasiphae mirabilis Paracolletes crassipes Trichocolletes Euryglossinae Eurglossa adelaidae Euryglossa ephippiata Exoneura Homalictus Homalictus dotatus Homalictus urbanus Hyleoides bivulnerata Lasioglossum Lasioglossum (Australictus) peraustrale Lasioglossum (Chilalictus) brunnesetum Lasioglossum (Chilalictus) willsi Lipotriches Lipotriches australica Lipotriches flavoviridis Lipotriches muscosa Megachile Eutricharaea Megachile aurifrons Megachile canifrons Megachile erythropyga Megachile (Thaumatosoma) duboulaii Megachile (Thaumatosoma) remeata Megachile ustulata Meroglossa Meroglossa impressifrons Meroglossa rubricata Stenotritidae Ctenocolletes albomarginatus Ctenocolletes nicholsoni Ctenocolletes rufescens Thyreus Thyreus caeruleopunctatus Thyreus waroonensis Xylocopa Xylocopa aerata Xylocopa bombylans