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Amegilla dawsoni (Family Apidae)

Dawson's Burrowing Bee



Confined to arid north-western Australia, occurring from Onslow in the north, south almost to Paynes Find and extending eastward to the Great Sandy Desert. (WA)


One of Australia's largest bees (body length up to 23 mm, wingspan up to 45 mm); the stout, densely hairy body and dark wings resemble those of the large carpenter bees of northern and eastern Australia but it is readily recognisable by the white hair on the head and thorax of the female and the extensive brown hair of the male. In both sexes, too, the lower face is relatively bare, yellow to brown and protuberant.

Ecology/Way of Life:

This handsome solitary bee inhabits semi-arid to arid plains and is most often seen visiting flowers of emu bush or poverty bush (Eremophila species) and rough blue-bell (Trichodesma zeylanicum). It visits some other flowers if the preferred species are unavailable. Adults are in flight from July (more northerly areas) to as late as September (southern areas). Females excavate nest burrows individually in hard, bare, clay soils, usually in close proximity to the burrows of other females. Nesting colonies may comprise just a few burrows or may have hundreds or even tens of thousands of burrows and cover hundreds of square metres. Each nest entrance has a short mud 'chimney' which prevents loose excavated soil from falling back in. Males vary significantly in size and fly about the nesting areas or forage plants in search of females. Both sexes produce a loud hum in flight.

Preferred Image

Interaction with Humans/Threats:

The bees swarm around people or animals wandering onto the nesting areas but they do not attack. Females have a potent sting which they will use only if molested. The bees are of no commercial interest but the aborigines once used to excavate the grubs as a food item. There are no serious threats to the species at present.

Other Comments:

First described by T. Rayment in 1951 as a species of Anthophora and named in honour of Owen Dawson who collected the type-specimen. (Amegilla is based on the name of another related bee genus, Megilla).

Further Reading:

Alcock, J. (1997). Competition from large males and the alternative mating tactics of small males of Dawson's burrowing bee Amegilla dawsoni (Apidae, Apinae, Anthophorini) Journal of Insect Behavior 10 (1): 99-113.

Houston, T.F. (1991). Ecology and behaviour of the bee Amegilla (Asaropoda) dawsoni (Rayment) with notes on a related species (Hymenoptera: Anthophoridae). Records of the Western Australian Museum 15 (3): 591-609.


Pollination Aboriginal resources


Text, Map and Illustrations copyright Terry F. Houston.

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Images and Multi-media:  
Distribution Map  
image/jpeg 16583 bytes Amegilla dawsoni distribution
Attached Image  
image/jpeg 30315 bytes Amegilla dawsoni (Female pinned specimen)
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image/jpeg 38366 bytes Amegilla dawsoni (Male at emergence hole of one year-old nest)
Attached Image  
image/jpeg 41767 bytes Amegilla dawsoni (Female in entrance chimney of a nest under construction)
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image/jpeg 54180 bytes Part of nesting area of Amegilla dawsoni in bare clay flat (each mound marks a nest entrance)
Attached Image  
image/jpeg 35189 bytes Brood cell of Amegilla dawsoni excavated and opened to show liquid pollen/nectar provision
Attached Image  
image/jpeg 29473 bytes Brood cell of Amegilla dawsoni excavated and opened to show fully fed, resting-phase larva.

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