Entomology - Blue banded bee

I had a very pretty visitor the other day, to my grow house.

I've never met one before, but it was a blue banded bee, or Amegilla cingulata (I Think - I'm new to this).

It looks like this and is an interesting fellow indeed.

Unfortunately this photo doesn't really capture the colour of the bands, so you'll have to take it from me they were a very pleasant shade of blue green.

This one seems to be male as I'm told males have five bands, and females have four. Males hang out like this at night, and as far as I can tell, females live in burrows that they dig in soft dry clay or sandstone.

They grow to around 12mm long, and look soft and fury like some kind of plush toy.

They sting, but are pretty relaxed and don't seem to mind having a very close up camera in their face.

The underground dwelling females lay eggs in some spare rooms they make at the end of their tunnel, (one egg to a room I think) and seal the room up with wax after adding a hearty mix of pollen and nectar for the young to feed on.

The best thing about these critters is that they are one of the few things that do something called "Buzz pollination" It involves grabbing on to your flower, sticking your head in and buzzing like a bee. The result is the release of some pollen that certain flowers don't like giving up too easily.

It turns out, plants that prefer to be buzz pollinated include egg plant, tomato, and chilli (so may be a solution to my capsicum pollination issue I had a while back), so buzz pollinators are nice things to have around. So nice in fact that the commercial tomato growers here want to import the bumble bee to pollinate tomato crops, but Adelaide University is trying to convince them that we already have some native Australian bees that do the task even better.

We humans don't have a very good record when it comes to importing things to take care of other things* so it's best avoided, as are all disasters.

Currently it seems, commercial tomato growers currently use vibrating devices to act the part of buzz pollinators, but studies have shown a 20% improvement on pollination if you use these bees rather than the robot version.

Using bees also means a lot less work on the part of the human, so it seems like it might be worth doing. The stuff I've read was from a few years ago, and claimed the bees will be commercialised within a few years.

I'm pretty sure that adds up to now.

120 Things in 20 years for all your good vibrations.

*see "There was an old woman who swallowed a fly"

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