Hylaeus spp – Masked BeeHylaeus (Prosopisteron) Hylaeus albonitens Hylaeus alcyoneus Hylaeus constrictiformis Hylaeus douglasi Hylaeus elegans Hylaeus euxanthus Hylaeus maiellus Hylaeus nubilosus Hylaeus ruficeps Hylaeus violaceus Hylaeus vittatifrons

The species Hylaeus alcyoneus, are commonly known as the Banksia Bee and are endemic to Australia. Found in the coastal heaths of eastern and southern Western Australia, they are an important pollinator of Australia’s loved flowering Banksia species.

Banksia Bee (Hylaeus alcyoneus) with smaller Hylaeine and even smaller Hylaeus © Gary Taylor
Banksia Bee (Hylaeus alcyoneus) with smaller Hylaeine and even smaller Hylaeus © Gary Taylor

The banksia bee can be identified by the metallic blue abdomen (hence their common name of blue banksia bee) and their yellow face markings. There is notable sexual dimorphism in this species, in that the males of the species are significantly larger than the females (in most other types of bees, the females are larger than males).

Hylaeus alcyoneus (Banksia Bee) © Gary Taylor
Hylaeus alcyoneus (Banksia Bee) © Gary Taylor

A noticeable behaviour among the different size males of this species, is that during feeding the larger males perch higher on the banksia and defend the banksia inflorescences that are in the high positions on the shrub where they feed, whilst the smaller males feed closer to the ground. The displacement of the large males from the perches is usually always by an even larger male.

Hylaeus alcyoneus with a smaller Hylaeine and even smaller Hylaeus © Gary Taylor
Hylaeus alcyoneus (Banksia Bee) with a smaller Hylaeine and even smaller Hylaeus © Gary Taylor

A solitary bee, the female H. alcyoneus nest in pre-existing holes in wood, such as found in dead branches or trunks of trees. The females construct a series of brood cells inside these holes, laying a single egg within each nest cell. The cells are then encapsulated in a waterproof, cellophane-like material secreted from the female.

Hylaeus (Macrohylaeus) alcyoneus, Dandaragan, WA © Marc Newman
Hylaeus (Macrohylaeus) alcyoneus, Dandaragan, WA © Marc Newman

Australian banksias on which the bee has been recorded visiting include Banksia ashbyi, B. coccinea, B. hookeriana, B. ilicifolia, B. menziesii, B. prionotes, B. sessilis, and B. speciosa. Other species include Allocasuarina campestris, Grevillea cagiana, G. eriostachya, Isopogon dubius, and Xanthorrhoea species.5


  • Scientific classification
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Subphylum: Hexapoda
  • Class: Insecta
  • Informal: Pterygotes
  • Order: Hymenoptera
  • Superfamily: Apoidea
  • Informal: Apiformes
  • Family: Colletidae
  • Subfamily: Hylaeinae
  • Genus: Hylaeus
  • Subgenus: infrageneric Macrohylaeus
  • Species: Hylaeus alcyoneus

Footnote & References

  1. Photographs © Gary Taylor, Midwest, Western Australia
  2. Photographs © Marc Newman, Flickr, https://flickr.com/photos/koolbee/albums
  3. Banksia Masked Bee (Hylaeus alcyoneus), iNaturalistAU, https://inaturalist.ala.org.au/taxa/511366-Hylaeus-alcyoneus
  4. Hylaeus alcyoneus, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hylaeus_alcyoneus (last visited May 13, 2022)
  5. Houston, Terry F. (June 2000). Native Bees on Wildflowers in Western Australia. Perth, WA: Western Australian Museum. p. 41. ISBN 0-646-39816-4.
  6. Hylaeus (Macrohylaeus) alcyoneus, Atlas of Living Australia, https://bie.ala.org.au/species/urn:lsid:biodiversity.org.au:afd.taxon:ae509348-06f3-46a2-b661-4094a62bfb46
  7. The secret lives of blue banksia bees, by Tobias Smith, 15 Nov 2020, Taxonomy Australia, https://www.taxonomyaustralia.org.au/post/the-secret-lives-of-blue-banksia-bees

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Hylaeus spp – Masked BeeHylaeus (Prosopisteron) Hylaeus albonitens Hylaeus alcyoneus Hylaeus constrictiformis Hylaeus douglasi Hylaeus elegans Hylaeus euxanthus Hylaeus maiellus Hylaeus nubilosus Hylaeus ruficeps Hylaeus (Euprosopoides) ruficeps ruficeps Hylaeus violaceus Hylaeus vittatifrons