Busy Bees

Bronwen Scott
3 min readApr 30

Industrious AF

Small black bee on a yellow flower.
Native bee gathering pollen from a flower in its last hurrah, Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland. © Bronwen Scott

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I have an announcement.

It has stopped raining. For the first time in ten days, we have blue sky.

The rain has made the lawn go feral.

And in the fifteen minutes between the sun appearing from behind the rainclouds and the start of the mowing, I managed to get these photos of native bees on weeds.

Small black bee on a yellow flower.
Native bee with pollen on its middle and hindlegs. © Bronwen Scott.

Native bees love weeds.

I love native bees.

I don’t know much about them — more than 1,600 species have been recorded from Australia and, apart from a handful of big species like the Teddy Bear (fluffy), Blue-banded (stripy) and Green Carpenter Bees (shiny), most are small to tiny — but I delight in seeing them gathering pollen from the hearts of introduced Hawksbeard and Catsear.

Small black bee with metallic green thorax on a yellow flower. Bee has ts head under a petal as it looks for pollen.
Black in dull light and iridescent in the sun, this bee explores the flower systematically. © Bronwen Scott.

They move without pause over petals and between stamens, tucking away pollen, while the flowers on which they work sway and shiver in the breeze. As the insects forage, they ripple from green to purple and their wings shimmer like a soap bubble.

Small bee climbing on a flower, head upwards.
When you dive into a flower, you can expect a bit of pollen on your face! © Bronwen Scott.

Some native bee species, including colonial stingless bees, carry pollen in special structures called corbiculae (pollen baskets) on their hind legs. Others have clusters of dense hair (scopae) on the legs or abdomen, which fulfill the same function. As they wallow and dive in the flowers, they groom off the sticky pollen into the corbiculae or scopae. Then they fly home with bags full.

Small native bee showing yellow pollen gathered under its abdomen.
Examples of scopae: on abdomen (left) and on hind legs (right). You mght have to look closely! © Bronwen Scott.

Now the mower has cleared the garden of any flowers that raised their heads above the grass. It is necessary — the property owners want a lawn not a meadow — but the green expanse has a melancholy look. No yellow suns dot its galaxy.

The hard-working bees will have to labour longer to gather their pollen, but even in a newly mown lawn some flowers still avoid the blades.

Tiny pea flower, a few millimetres across, hidden among the grass. © Bronwen Scott.
Bronwen Scott

Zoologist, writer, artist, museum fan, enjoying life in the tropical rainforest of Far North Queensland. She/her. Website: bronwenscott.com