My Mum has a gorgeous garden. She keeps it looking lovely, but also endeavours to make it as water-saving and bee/bird-friendly as possible. She has lots of natives combined with more traditional, cottage garden plants. It’s not easy having a nice garden in WA. The Summers are so hot and even in the “wetter” months things can dry out. A couple of years ago, Mum got a landscaper in to help her design an eco-friendly (but still beautiful) garden that she could maintain herself and continue to work on. She’s only a pensioner, my Mum, so it was all done on a strict budget, saving money where possible (the landscaper was brilliant).
What she ended up with is a low-maintenance garden that is pretty all year round and makes the most of every season. It is also very welcoming to native birds and bees and the odd frog or two. Mum’s been very keen on attracting the native Blue Banded Bee, a cute little species of bee that lives a solitary life, with the females building their nests in singular burrows, in mud or soft mortar (or you can build them a little house, like THESE). They don’t create large stores of honey, so they are not suitable for honey production. BBBs don’t mind having close neighbours, in fact they will often build their nests right next door to another bee, although they still do not behave in a “colony” kind of way.
They are excellent pollinators, using the “buzz” method, which means they grasp the flower and basically give it a good shake, by shivering their flight muscles, or banging their head on the flower (yes, really). This releases the pollen, which is hidden in tiny capsules. Many flowers require this type of pollination, so blue banded bees are very necessary to the continuation of several plant species.
While they do have a mild sting, BBBs are not very aggressive. They move very quickly and can hover, unlike most other bees. They are a total pain to photograph (ha ha) because they don’t stay still for long, and move at a much faster pace than regular bees, zipping around in a blur that causes the photographer (ie me) to swear a lot and dance around the garden, yelling “Keep still, dammit!”
They are attracted primarily to white or blue flowers (possibly because it is better for camouflage) and are particularly good at pollinating tomatoes, eggplants and kiwifruit apparently. So much so, there are plans to use them as greenhouse bees for large-scale tomato production.
BBBs are small critters, about 11mm in length, and have bands of iridescent pale blue-almost white on their abdomens. When they fly, they look like a little flash of blue.
At night, the males cling to plant stems, like tiny little chickens roosting for the night 🙂
Bees, in general, are so important to the well-being of the planet. We should look after them and give them happy habitats and clean environments. I personally love the little critters (probably because I have never been stung!) and enjoy watching them and their behaviour. I find if you just let them get on with their business, they will stay out of yours. Blue Banded Bees are really nice to watch and because they are not aggressive, you can get up close and personal with them, plus there is no risk of being attacked by a swarm!
You can find out more info about the Blue Banded Bee HERE