Australian native bees may offer an alternative pollination service

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 8th February 2019

There has been a lot of concern globally regarding the health of the world honey bee population. Recent studies conducted by entomologist Dr. Tanya Latty indicate that Australian native bees may be as effective, and indeed in some cases superior to, the honey bee which was introduced to Australia from overseas following European settlement in the late 18th century.

Australia’s native bees are vital to the Australian bush, serving as important pollinators to Australia’s unique flora. Moreover, they have advantages over the honey bee for numerous other crops which are not native to Australia. For example, many plants including food producing ones such as tomato or eggplant simply cannot be pollinated by the honey bee, as they only release pollen when vibrated at specific frequencies not created by honey bees. However, this method of pollination, dubbed ‘Buzz Pollination’ can be performed better by many native bees – such as blue banded bees, carpenter bees and teddy bear bees – which can vibrate their bodies at the exact right frequency to release pollen and facilitate fertilisation.

Further, horticulture experts predict that native bees may be less affected by honey bee pests, such as the Varroa mite. The mites are external parasites and cause significant malformation and weakening of honey bees but are expected to be less affective parasites to Australian native bees. This means Australian native bees offer substantial potential for pollination services beyond Australia for the global food supply.