Bees: Suborder Apocrita

There are over 1,500 species of native bees in Australia and around 200 live in the Sydney region.


Creator: Andrew Howells © Australian Museum

Bees belong to the insect Order Hymenoptera, which includes wasps, ants and sawflies. In Australia there are four main bee families: Apidae, Colletidae, Halictidae and Megachilidae.

Many Australian these bees are solitary nesters, while others may share a nest. Others are fully social species.

Although some bees sting, they are not considered to be pests as they play an important role in the Australian environment as key pollinators of many native plant species. Indigenous people have long used both the honey and the nests of native bees as valuable sources of food and wax.

Commercially, the introduced Honey Bee is vital to the production of honey, but the cultivation of native bee species is also being investigated as a viable industry.

Features of bees:

  • They are vegetarian throughout their life cycle, eating nectar and pollen.
  • They are generally furrier than wasps and have feathery or branched hairs.
  • Some native bees use a special pollination technique called 'buzz pollination', which certain native flowering plants require for pollination.
  • Stingless bees (Trigona and Austroplebeia species) are the only native bees that do not possess a sting.
  • The females of all the other native bees have a sting but many are too small to deliver an effective venom dose to humans.
  • Although not aggressive, the largest native species can deliver a painful sting.

For enquiries relating to these insects in the Australian Museum collection please contact the Collection Manager


CSIRO Entomology. 1991. The Insects of Australia. Melbourne University Press.

Dollin, A., M. Batley, M. Robinson & B. Faulkner. 2000. Native Bees of the Sydney Region: A Field Guide. Australian Native Bee Research Centre.

Hadlington, P. & Johnston, J. 1998. An Introduction to Australian Insects. UNSW Press: Sydney

Zbrowski, P. & Storey, R. 1995. A Field Guide to Insects in Australia. Reed Books: Sydney

Dr David Britton , Head, Natural Sciences & Biodiversity Conservation
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