Get the native buzz

February 14, 2019

Paul West explains why going native is good for you, your garden and the environment.

A homemade hive made of untreated timber will attract native bees.
Photo: Denis Crawford

A simple starting point to get you buzzing

Bees are a hot topic right now, but did you know that Australia is home to a staggering 1600 plus species of native bees? They range in size from 2–24mm and come in a vast array of colours and shapes. You’ve probably heard of native stingless bees (Tetragonula carbonaria), which are becoming increasingly popular for people to keep in their backyards in warmer regions. They are one of 11 species of native bees that are social and stingless, while most of the other native species are solitary, live in burrows, and are able to sting. If you’re not interested in keeping bees, there’s still plenty that you can do as a gardener to provide food and habitat to lure native bees into your garden and support them in a time of dwindling wild habitats.

Get your hands on a guide book to native bees or head to an online resource like Aussie Bee ( and get to know the species that call your area home. Next, observe the pollinators that hang around flowers in your garden. You can tell bees apart from insects such as flies and wasps by the presence of pollen on the back of their legs or under their abdomens. Some common varieties that you may observe include resin bees, reed bees, masked bees, leaf cutter bees, blue banded bees, teddy bear bees and stingless bees. 

If you’d like to learn more about both European and native bees, you can catch the Catalyst Special ‘The Great Australian Bee Challenge’ on ABC iview and there's always more to learn in the latest Organic Gardener issue on sale now. 

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Gardening Basics, Pots & Small Spaces, Getting started