What are Blue-banded bees? And how to attract them to your garden!

What are Blue-banded bees? And how to attract them to your garden!

 “When the flower blossoms, the bee will come." - Srikumar Rao

My favourite part of gardening would have to be seeing the impact is has on bees, butterflies, birds and other insects and wildlife. Over the years I have found that when we plant a diverse range of plants we attract a diverse range of creatures! And one of these creatures we seem to be attracting lately is the gorgeous Blue-banded Bee.

Blog Post - What are Blue-banded bees? | Throw Some Seeds - Australian gardening gifts and eco products online!
Image provided by Erica Siegel

There are eleven species of Blue-banded bees in Australia, and many people don’t even know they exist. A big reason for this is because they are so quick! The first time I spotted one I heard a loud buzzing and caught a glimpse of blue out of the corner of my eye – but by the time I turned around it was already darting off. I had to google it to find out what I had seen. It was quite some time before I was lucky to spot one again in our garden. However fast forward a few years (and many new plants later) and we are lucky enough to spot them daily during the warm seasons.

Blue-banded Bees are solitary bees by nature. The females will build their nest in a shallow burrow of clay soil, mudbricks, or even a block of soft sandstone, and live there alone. Although the females live in these solitary nests, they will often build them close together, and live in a community of sorts. And the males? They actually sleep clinging to plant stems!

Blue-banded Bees also have a long tongue that they use to sip nectar - and they can withdraw it back into a sheath for protection. You don't always see their tongues hanging out - but it's an amazing sight when you do - like this incredible photo!

Blog Post - What are Blue-banded bees? | Throw Some Seeds - Australian gardening gifts and eco products online!
A very long tongue! Image provided by Erica Siegel

These cute little bees do have the potential to sting but I have never seen an aggressive one. They seem to be content happily flitting from flower to flower, and if anything will do their best to shy away from you if you get too close.

Blue-banded bees commonly have vivid blue metallic stripes – males have five and females four. However different species are known to have slightly different coloured stripes, such as the yellow/cream stripes seen below!

Blog Post - What are Blue-banded bees? | Throw Some Seeds - Australian gardening gifts and eco products online!
Image provided by Erica Siegel

The very special thing about these bees is that they are BUZZ pollinators! The ‘buzz’ pollination method means they use vibration to pollinate flowers that many other bees (including honeybees) cannot. During buzz pollination their flight muscles move so rapidly that the flowers themselves vibrate and dislodge pollen.

According to Wikipedia, about 9% of the world’s flowers use this method in order to pollinate. The flowers of these plants have a unique shaped anther which allows pollen to be dislodged in this way.

It is estimated that our blue banders contribute to the production of at least 30% of our crops in Australia (including tomatoes, blueberries, eggplants and potatoes among others). So to put it simply we need these little guys and they deserve to be in the spotlight!

Blog Post - What are Blue-banded bees? | Throw Some Seeds - Australian gardening gifts and eco products online!
Image provided by Erica Siegel

Now for the fun part. I’ve been studying the plants they visit in our garden, and as well as looking at other sources of information, I have come up with a list of plants that they are known to LOVE!

Are you ready to attract some Blue-banded bees to your garden?

Plants to attract Blue-banded Bees to Your Garden

  • Abelia
  • Begonias
  • Blue-bell creeper
  • Brachycomes
  • Buddleia
  • Chilli
  • Cigar plants (Cuphea)
  • Duranta
  • Eggplants
  • Flax lily
  • Hardenbergia
  • Hibbertia
  • Lavender
  • Lemon Balm
  • Leucophyllum
  • Mint
  • Mona Lavender
  • Mountain devil or Honey flower
  • Myrtle
  • Native Rosemary (westringia)
  • Passionfruit flowers
  • Perennial Basil
  • Rosemary
  • Sage (Bog, Officinalis)
  • Salvia (salvia officinalis & white salvia Coccinea)
  • Scarlet sage
  • Senna
  • Snapdragons
  • Spider-flower grevillea
  • Sweet Basil
  • Thyme
  • Tomatoes
  • Verbena

Blog Post - What are Blue-banded bees? | Throw Some Seeds - Australian gardening gifts and eco products online!
Image provided by Erica Siegel

Like many other bees, Blue-banded bees appear to be very attracted to blue and purple flowers, although they will regularly visit others too. There is one plant I have noticed our blue banders absolutely adore foraging in our garden and that is Sage (Bog, Officinalis).

    Let us know in the comments below which flowers they love to visit in your garden! 

    Happy planting and bee attracting! Be sure to share your favourite Blue-banded Bee pics with us over on our Instagram or Facebook pages.

    If you would like to see more photos of Blue-banded bees, solitary native bees and other beautiful creatures visit Erica's website Erica Siegel Wildlife Photograpy.

    “Bees do have a smell, you know, and if they don't they should, for their feet are dusted with spices from a million flowers.” - Ray Bradbury

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    Erica Siegel

    Erica Siegel

    Love the blog ! In my garden they love Motherwort best but also the Leucophyllum and Holy Basil, actually any Basil !

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