The Teddy Bear Bees of Australia

Teddy Bear Bee

Awww… Cute and fluffy – The Teddy Bear Bee

Among the diverse array of native bees found in Australia, the teddy bear bee (Amegilla bombiformis) stands out as a particularly endearing and captivating species. With their plump, furry bodies and distinctive appearance, these bees have earned the affection of many Australians who encounter them in gardens and natural areas. Beyond their cute looks, teddy bear bees play a special role as pollinators, contributing to the health of both native flora and agricultural crops. In this article, we will explore the fascinating biology, behavior, and ecological importance of these delightful native bees

Description and Appearance

Teddy bear bees are aptly named for their rounded, fluffy appearance, which resembles that of a small teddy bear. Ranging in size from 7 to 15 mm in length, these bees are covered in a thick coat of golden-brown or orange-brown fur, giving them a soft and cuddly look. Their abdomens feature several dark, hairless bands that contrast with the furry body.

While teddy bear bees may initially be mistaken for bumblebees, being loud and noisy foragers, they can be distinguished by their slightly smaller size and the banding pattern on their abdomens. In Western Australia, there is a closely related species called the Dawson’s burrowing bee (Amegilla dawsoni) that is even larger, reaching up to 20 mm in length.


Nesting and Behavior

Teddy bear bees are solitary nesters, with each female constructing her own shallow burrow in soft soil or other suitable substrates, such as underneath houses or in eroded river banks. These nests typically extend about 10 cm into the ground and contain several urn-shaped brood cells, each containing an egg and a provision of pollen and nectar.

Although they nest individually, teddy bear bees are often found in close proximity to one another, with multiple females nesting together in the same general area. This gregarious behavior may provide some benefits in terms of defense and resource sharing.

Foraging and Pollination

As their name suggests, teddy bear bees are excellent pollinators, particularly of plants that require “buzz pollination.” This specialized technique involves the bee gripping the flower and vibrating its flight muscles, causing the pollen to be released in a shower. Crops like tomatoes, blueberries, and capsicums greatly benefit from the pollination services provided by these bees.

Teddy bear bees have been observed foraging on a variety of flowers, including those of Abelia, Buddleja, and the blue flax lily (Dianella caerulea). Their robust bodies and dense fur coats allow them to efficiently collect and transport large quantities of pollen, making them valuable contributors to the pollination of both native and agricultural plants.

Distribution and Conservation

Teddy bear bees are widely distributed across eastern Australia, ranging from Queensland through New South Wales and into Victoria. They have also been documented in parts of New Guinea and the Aru Islands to the north. This native bee is preyed upon by Cane Toads, frogs, and many birds. Urbanisation and the use of pesticide is also reducing flowering plants that the bees need on and native vegetation on river banks where they nest. While their populations appear to be stable, ongoing habitat loss and the impacts of climate change may pose threats to these important pollinators in the future.

As with many native bee species, awareness and appreciation of teddy bear bees is important for their conservation. By creating bee-friendly gardens, minimizing pesticide use, and supporting research and monitoring efforts, we can ensure that these seriously cute insects continue to thrive and contribute to the health of Australia’s ecosystems.

Teddy Bear Bee FAQs

Q: Are teddy bear bees native to Australia?
A: Yes, teddy bear bees (Amegilla bombiformis) are native to Australia. They are found in eastern Australia, ranging from Queensland through New South Wales and into Victoria. Teddy bear bees have also been documented in parts of New Guinea and the Aru Islands to the north. These bees are an important part of Australia’s diverse native bee fauna and play a significant role in pollinating both native plants and agricultural crops.

Q: Do teddy bear bees sting?
A: Like most native bees, female teddy bear bees are not aggressive and will only sting if they feel threatened or if their nest is disturbed. In general, teddy bear bees are not considered a significant stinging threat to humans, and their sting is less painful than that of a honeybee or wasp. It is always best to observe these bees from a respectful distance and avoid disturbing their nests.

Q: Are teddy bear bees rare?
A: Teddy bear bees are not considered rare in Australia. They are relatively common in suitable habitats, such as gardens, urban areas, and natural bushland. However, like many native bee species, teddy bear bees face potential threats from habitat loss, pesticide use, and climate change. While their populations currently appear stable, it is important to monitor and protect these bees to ensure their long-term survival. In some parts of their range, teddy bear bees may be less common or harder to spot, but this does not necessarily indicate that they are rare.

Q: Are teddy bear bees friendly?
A: Teddy bear bees, like most native bees, are not aggressive and will generally not attack unless provoked. They are more interested in foraging for pollen and nectar than interacting with humans. However, it is important to remember that all bees are wild animals and should be treated with respect and caution. If you observe teddy bear bees in your garden or in the wild, it is best to maintain a safe distance and avoid disturbing their nests or foraging activities. By providing bee-friendly plants and minimizing the use of pesticides, you can create a welcoming environment for these charming pollinators and enjoy their presence without interfering with their natural behavior.

The teddy bear bee is a delightful and ecologically significant native species that embodies the unique charm and diversity of Australia’s wildlife. From their endearing appearance to their vital role as pollinators, these bees have captured the hearts of many Australians. By learning about and celebrating the teddy bear bee, we can foster a deeper appreciation for the incredible natural wonders that exist right in our own backyards and help ensure the long-term survival of these remarkable creatures.