Blue Banksia Bee
Occurs across southern Australia, but confined chiefly to the wetter coastal areas (Shark Bay to Esperance; Adelaide to Brisbane and in Tasmania). (NSW, QLD, VIC, SA, TAS, WA)
A medium-sized bee (body length about 10–12 mm), with a relatively hairless black body, abdomen with a bluish iridescence and face and thorax with areas of yellow (as in many species of Hylaeus). Differs from superficially similar species in lacking yellow markings on the midline of the thorax and having the face yellow on the midline as well as the sides in both sexes.
Ecology/Way of Life:
Although this species is most often observed on flowers of Banksia, it occasionally visits flowers of other members of the family Proteaceae. Males either fly from flower head to flower head in search of females or they perch on the crest of a flower head and defend it against intrusion by rival males. Males vary greatly in size and it is the large males, which have a pair of stout spines beneath the abdomen, that have the greatest success defending territories. Females nest solitarily in vacated burrows of wood-boring insects in the stems or branches of various shrubs. As in other Hylaeus, the brood cells are constructed of a cellophane-like material derived from a salivary secretion.
Interaction with Humans/Threats:
No commercial value. Females will sting but only if molested.
Hylaeus alcyoneus (named by W.F. Erichson in 1842 as a species of Prosopis). Based on Latin: Hylaeus = mythological canine character; alcyon = kingfisher.
Houston, T.F. (1981). A revision of the Australian hylaeine bees (Hymenoptera: Colletidae). II. Australian Journal of Zoology Supplementary Series 80: 1-128.
Text, image of Bee on Banksia marginata by Terry Houston. Map sourced from Houston (1981) and the Western Australian Museum. Main image copyright David Pike.
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