Amegilla cingulata, commonly known as the blue banded bee, is an Australian native bee that occurs in many other regions. Currently, there are several scientific organisations conducting thorough research on how the blue banded bee benefits agriculture through its distinctive "buzz pollination". These bees are very important for the production of food and contribute to at least 30% of crops in Australia.
A. cingulata was first described by Danish entomologist Johan Christian Fabricius in 1775. Its specific epithet cingulata is from the Latin word cingulum ("belt") referring to the bee's bands. The genus Amegilla contains over 250 additional species, however, several of which are virtually indistinguishable from A. cingulata, and are therefore commonly confused with it.
A. cingulata has a very striking appearance, similar to several other species of Amegilla. Unlike honey bees, it has pale opalescent blue stripes on its abdomen. The male can be distinguished by the number of complete bands, having five as opposed to the females' four. In size, A. cingulata can grow to 10–12 millimetres (0.39–0.47 in).
Distribution and habitat
A. cingulata is native to Australia, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, East Timor, Malaysia and India. It appears to live in tropical and subtropical regions. The bees inhabit urban areas, woodlands, forests and heath areas.
Blue banded bees can sting but are not as aggressive as other bees. The males cling to plant stems during the night. They are solitary creatures, with single females inhabiting burrows in the soil or soft stone, unlike social species such as honey bees which live in large colonies.
A. cingulata in Australia collects the majority of its nectar from blue flowers, although others investigated include mountain devil (Lambertia formosa), grey spider flower (Grevillea buxifolia) as well as the introduced Abelia grandiflora and lavender (Lavandula species). They also feed on some non-blue flowers such as the white form of Salvia coccinea, tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) and eggplant (Solanum melongena) flowers, white flowers of Leea indica and some members of the Verbenaceae family. The bees use a process that involves clinging onto flowers and vibrating powerfully, which increases the release of pollen. They only have a limited foraging range of roughly 300 m from their nest, and females make at least nine foraging flights per day.
A. cingulata builds a solitary nest, but often close to one another. Blue banded bees tend to nest in burrows in dried up river banks, old clay homes and in mortar between bricks, but may also burrow in soft sandstone, and areas of this type of rock can become riddled with bee tunnels. Cells, at the end of tunnels, contain an egg with a pollen/nectar mixture for the larval food.
A. cingulata is preyed upon by many animals, including the Cane Toad, frogs and birds. Its nests are parasitized by the neon cuckoo bee Thyreus nitidulus. Human activity, for example the clearing of river banks in the Caboolture River may threaten nest sites of this bee.
- "Species Amegilla (Zonamegilla) cingulata (Fabricius, 1775)". Australian Faunal Directory. Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Retrieved 5 May 2010.
- Dollin, Anne; Batley, Michael (2000). Native Bees of the Sydney Region. North Richmond, NSW: Australian Native Bee Research Centre. p. 52. ISBN 1-876307-07-2.
- "Common Blue-banded Bee". Australian Museum.