Bee-ware, Teddy-bear!

March 26, 2012 at 8:48 pm | Posted in Australia, Gardens, Nature, Society | 8 Comments
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You learn something new every day.

This morning, my husband saw an unusual insect. It looked like a bee but he had never seen one like it before. He caught it in a glass jar and brought it inside. We opened a google search and came up with the goods. It was a Teddybear bee.

    “Covered with dense red-brown fur, the teddy bear bee is one of Australia’s most appealing native bees and can provide you with a real teddy bears’ picnic in your garden.”

    Teddy Bear bees are native Australian bees, one of the ten groups of Aussie bees. Within those groups, there are over 1,500 species of native bee.

    I was really surprised to find this, as I had always thought there was only one basic group of native bees in Australia, and that these were small, stingless and being wiped out by the European honeybee.

    A little more information from the website:

    Most species of these rotund furry brown bees are 7 to 15 mm long. They build shallow nest burrows in soft soil and sometimes nest underneath houses. Each female builds her own nest burrow but many bees may nest together in the one location.

    It was difficult to assess the size of our bee, but it was at the larger end of that scale, a little bigger than a ‘normal’ honeybee. That was what made us interested to find out what it was.

    I have been mulling over why we should see these bees now, after never having seen one before. Over the last year or two, we have noticed a decline in the number of European honeybees around the blossoms of our native trees.

Varroa mite on bee

    There is a world-wide decline in honeybee numbers, due partly to the parasitic verroa mite. However this mite has not yet entered  Australia; we are the only content free of it at present, though it is closing in on us. Other factors are obviously at play here.

     But whatever the cause of the local downturn in honeybee numbers, I think that reduced competition from these introduced bees could possibly lead to a resurgence in our native bee populations. Apiarists are also increasingly breeding and using stingless native bees for food crop pollination.

    What is not in doubt is the importance of bees to the world food supply. Honey production is only a tiny part of the bee’s value. Most crops for human consumption and stock raising must be fertilised by bees, and these account for a huge percentage of the world’s food production. Without bees, we would have a catastrophe of incalculable proportions on our hands.

Our Teddybear bee

You will be pleased to know that, as soon as we discovered what our captured insect was, we released it unharmed into the garden. I am so pleased to know that we have real Aussie bees in our area again, and we will watch out for them from now on.

   

Do you know what the bee situation is in your region? Have you ever considered the ramifications of bee loss to food production around the world?

 

© Linda Visman  26th March 2012

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8 Comments »

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  1. Sounds very odd to say this, but that really is a sweet-looking bee! They are incredible creatures, and I think I read recently that if bees become extinct the planet will cease to exist as we know it. Love the title too!

    • It is sweet isn’t it Sarah 🙂
      Most people have absolutely no idea how delicate the ecosystem is and that, if one major species goes, the rest will suffer enormously. This is especially true of bees, which are the cornerstone of food production throughout the world.
      Funny thig is though, if humans die out, then the rest of the ecosystem will end up much healthier. We don’t like to admit that the bee is so dramatically more important to the well-being of the earth than we are.

      • I’m always amazed at how such a tiny creature can make a huge difference to our world!

  2. Thank you for that lovely blog. I didn’t even know such a thing existed!

    • I hadn’t known about these bees either Debbie until I looked them up. Marvellous what you can discover just from one little insect. 🙂

  3. There seems to be fewer in our garden, but I notice that there are still quite a number in the bushland nearby. In fact it isn’t unusual to see one or more trying to stay afloat in the river baths. (I try to save them whenever possible.)

    • We see them only rarely, Margaret. There has been one buzzing around our house (and inside it a couple of times) in the last week or so. I am always glad to see them.


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