Beautiful photos put focus on Australian insects

October 11, 2018, Flinders University
The Amphylaeus morosus, female, photographed in Victoria. The A. morosus is the only bee in its entire family (Collitidae) that is known to be social. “For such a large family of bees this is truly remarkable,” says photographer James Dorey. Credit: James Dorey

Dramatic photos by Flinders natural sciences researcher James Dorey put a spotlight on an estimated 2000-3000 species of bees in Australia.

A new book titled Bees of Australia: A Photographic Exploration (CSIRO Publishing, $49.99) explores topics such as social behaviour, threats, pollination and how to attract to your garden.

Talented macro-photographer James Dorey, a Ph.D. candidate at the College of Science and Engineering, is excited to be a part of the recording and scientific investigation of known and yet-to-be-described – many to be found in suburban backyards.

In fact, it was during his time as an undergraduate in ecology and zoology when bees in his backyard 'stung' his interest.

"I went to a tree just outside my house – a melaleuca tree that was about five or six metres tall – and started collecting bees," he told the CSIRO news.

"In the one tree, I found 33 different of native bees. Before then I'd only ever heard of the blue-banded bee and, of course, the honeybee.

"I didn't know there was so much diversity in native bees, and it made me wonder if anyone else knew."

During the making of the book, a new species of Exoneura sp. was discovered in South Australia and is in the process of being named.

Hylaeus (Macrohylaeus) alcyoneus, female (NSW). The banksia bee is named such because it likes to feed off of Banskia plants, which is no surprise. What is interesting, however is that males will guard flowers, chasing off other male banksia bees in order to mate with the females who come in for a feed. Credit: James Dorey

Undescribed species from NSW and NT are included, along with a bee found in Tasmania that was otherwise only known around Sydney.

Other photos include a "stunning male golden green carpenter bee" Xylocopa (Lestis) aerates now only found on Kangaroo Island, a "pretty female Lipotriches (Austronomia) australica, a buzz pollinator which uses its abdomen to vibrate and dislodge pollen," and another bee found in SA that resembles a European honey bee, Brachyhesma houstoni, named after Dr. Terry Houston who collected the original specimens in 1964.

Australia currently has more than 1600 described and named bee species, with many under threat due to habitat loss, exotic species, pesticides and climate change.

The introduced European honeybee also contributes to pollinating crops, but can disrupt the habitats of many of our native bees, birds and mammals.

Fast facts on native bees:

Amegilla (Notomegilla) chlorocyanea, male (WA). One of the most-recognised of our native bees are the incredibly fast-flying and stunning blue-banded bees. Representatives of these species can be found around Australia in gardens and the bush. Credit: James Dorey
  • Rather than congregating in hives, many of Australia's bees live alone or in small groups. Some live in hollow twigs and stems, while others burrow into the ground. Certain species of male bees like to roost and hang out on 'bachelor pads'.
  • Australia is home to the world's smallest bee, less than 2mm in length.
  • Some male bees will fight to the death to mate with a female. When the males mate their genitals will lock into place and can be left within the queen, which must then seek the help of her workers to remove them.
  • Only female bees will sting – they use a modified egg-laying appendage known as an ovipositor.

Bees of Australia was launched at the Pacific Cultures Gallery at the South Australian Museum on 11 October 2018, and is available for purchase online.

Explore further: Sunflower pollen has medicinal, protective effects on bees

Related Stories

Newly identified bacteria may help bees nourish their young

April 13, 2018

A team of researchers at the University of California, Riverside have isolated three previously unknown bacterial species from wild bees and flowers. The bacteria, which belong to the genus Lactobacillus, may play a role ...

Inside the brains of killer bees

June 6, 2018

Africanized honeybees, commonly known as "killer bees," are much more aggressive than their European counterparts. Now researchers have examined neuropeptide changes that take place in Africanized honeybees' brains during ...

Sick bees eat healthier

February 7, 2018

Dr Lori Lach, Senior Lecturer at JCU, said the study compared the feeding habits of healthy bees to those infected with the gut parasite Nosema ceranae.

Recommended for you

Where is the universe hiding its missing mass?

February 15, 2019

Astronomers have spent decades looking for something that sounds like it would be hard to miss: about a third of the "normal" matter in the Universe. New results from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory may have helped them ...

What rising seas mean for local economies

February 15, 2019

Impacts from climate change are not always easy to see. But for many local businesses in coastal communities across the United States, the evidence is right outside their doors—or in their parking lots.

Tiny particles can switch back and forth between phases

February 15, 2019

Three years ago, when Richard Robinson, associate professor of materials science and engineering, was on sabbatical at Hebrew University in Israel, he asked a graduate student to send him some nanoparticles of a specific ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.