Masked bee Click to enlarge image
Masked bee, Subfamily Hylaeinae view from side Image: Andrew Donnelly
© Australian Museum

Fast Facts

  • Classification
    Genus
    Hylaeus
    Subfamily
    Hylaeinae
    Family
    Colletidae
    Super Family
    Apoidea
    Suborder
    Apocrita
    Order
    Hymenoptera
    Class
    Insecta
    Subphylum
    Uniramia
    Phylum
    Arthopoda
    Kingdom
    Animalia
  • Size Range
    3 mm - 11 mm

Masked bees get their name from their distinctive yellow or white markings on their face.

Habitat

Masked bees live in urban areas, forests and woodlands, and heath. Many species nest in twigs, branches and reeds. As a group they are more abundant and diversified in Australia than anywhere else in the world, probably because of the variety of eucalypt trees available for pollen and nesting.

Distribution

Masked bees are found throughout Australia.

Feeding and diet

The female of one exceptional masked bee, Hylaeus bicolorellus, is known to use its specially adapted jaws to chew into flower buds before they open. This is, in effect, stealing the pollen because the flower has no opportunity to be pollinated. The bee was, until recently, thought to be rare and unusual

Other behaviours and adaptations

Hylaeus perhumilis is a common masked bee around Sydney. It occurs in large numbers around flowering eucalypt and Angophora trees. It is small (4 mm) with a mostly black, elongated body and has yellow areas on its face and legs.

Hylaeus nubilosus is another common masked bee that has a typical white masked face and a yellow patch on its back-another common feature of this group. It visits a range of native flowers.