Bees are an effective treatment for depression. Well, my depression. And specifically the kind of malaise that comes from being locked out of our national parks and wild places for a second Spring running.
After monitoring my small front yard last Spring-Summer, I knew there was a set of small but diverse native bees that revealed themselves when the weather was warm and the yard was blooming. This year, I’ve decided to go deep and get to know them a whole lot better.
Getting even a basic knowledge of the 2000 native bees of Australia is a very big task. Getting to know the native bees of a single 50 km2 local government area (where I live) is much easier. So I set out to reconcile all the official and unofficial records for native bees within Moreland City LGA (just north of Melbourne CBD), to build a species list. And after going to that effort, I figured the local community would probably also like to have that information. So here is version one of the ‘Native Bees of Moreland‘ infographic (PDF link):
Building the inventory of Moreland’s bees
I started by pulling all of the records for bees in Moreland LGA from Atlas of Living Australia. After taking out the two introduced species, there were 12 species-level identifications plus 52 records for bees identified only to genus or subgenus. I then validated the species identified against their geographic ranges to exclude any obviously erroneous records. After that I reviewed iNaturalist records for bees in Moreland to see if I could identify any species that did not appear in the Atlas records.
My summary from this process is in the table below:
|Amegilla (Zonamegilla) asserta||Reliably present||A. chlorocyanea also possible given distribution, observations in nearby LGAs, and iNaturalist records|
|Lasioglossum (Homalictus) sp.||Reliably present||No species-level identifications confirmed. But the genus is very common. At least two species are in Moreland. Possibly L. punctatus, L. brisbanensis, L.urbanus, L. sphecodoides|
|Hylaeus (Prosopisteron) littleri||Reliably present||Unlikely to be the only Hylaeus species in the area|
|Hyleoides concinna||Rare and present||No record since 1946, however one record from neighbouring LGA, Mooney Valley, 2017|
|Lasioglossum (Chilalictus) calophyllae||Reliably present||Common and recent records|
|Lasioglossum (Parasphecodes) hiltacus||Historical||No record in the LGA since 1956|
|Lasioglossum (Chilalictus) lanarium||Historical||No record since specimen from 1894|
|Lipotriches (Austronomia)||Reliably present||No identified specimens, but iNaturalist observations confirm the genus is present|
|Megachile (Eutricharaea) obtusa||Historical||No record since specimen from 1906|
|Megachile erythropyga||Reliably present||Pinned specimen from 1987. iNaturalist observations since|
|Megachile (Rhodomegachile) deanii||Doubtful record||Far outside known distribution. Must be erroneous.|
|Braunsapis sp.||Doubtful record||B. unicolor and B. plebeia specimens from 1958. Very far from known distribution. Must be erroneous records.|
Clearly, for a very populous area, there are very few records. This is the case for not only bees, but insects in general. An added challenge is that it is often difficult to diagnose bees to species level. Together, that means it has been very easy to find bees that have never been recorded in the area.
For example, the most common small bee in my yard is a tiny, dark Homalictus with a faint green wash on the thorax. It most closely resembles Lasioglossum (Homalictus) sphecodoides, but this species has never been recorded in the area – presumably because no one with the right taxonomic expertise has collected bees, or examined Homalictus specimens from Moreland. Indeed, no species-level identification for a Homalictus has been made for Moreland at all.
In the first-bee hunting trip I took outside my yard this Spring, I even recorded a new genus for the area. I caught both male and female reed bees – Brevineura sp., flitting around a flowering Diosma in the cemetary.
Then there are those historical records – bee specimens collected 60 – 100 years ago and not seen since. How tantalising! Perhaps they are extinct in the area? Or maybe they are just so rare and scarcely recorded. Well not long after finalising the infographic, I rendered it instantly out of date by finding a Lasioglossum (Parasphecodes) hiltacus for the first time in Moreland since 1956.
In just two short trips outside the house I’ve recorded a new genus to the area and made the first local observation of a species since 1956. While I’m aware that our small, arbitrary local government boundaries bear no influence on ecology, it does make a useful context for illustrating just how under-studied is our urban bee biodiversity.