Bug Watch: Blue banded bee
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This native bee is found in every part of Australia except Tasmania. It gets its name from the iridescent blue or white bands around its abdomen. The bee is about 12mm long, with a furry thorax and bulging eyes. A long glossa, or tongue, accesses the nectar of trumpet-shaped flowers. Interestingly, these bees ‘buzz’ pollinate. Only a handful of native bees use this technique, which has been proven to improve yields in the solanaceous crop plants (tomatoes, eggplants and chillies) by 30 per cent, making the blue-banded bee a vegetable grower’s favourite. Many flowers release pollen passively, however those in the solanaceae family require rapid vibration. The blue-banded bee clamps onto a flower and flaps its wings at such a rate that this occurs. Attract them to the vegetable patch by planting bedding begonias, verbenas, salvias or antirrhinums.