Local plants to bring all the native bees to your yard
Tobias Smith and Saraya Robinson | May 15, 2020
Bees are the world’s most important group of pollinators.
Not only do they pollinate many of our crops, but they are fundamental to the ongoing persistence of natural ecosystems through the pollination they provide to wild plants. But bees have many threats, with habitat loss being the biggest. For bees, habitat loss means the loss of potential nest sites and loss of food sources. Bees need flowers, and lots of them. Bees eat pollen (a source of protein and fats) and nectar (a source of sugar), and they collect these to feed to their offspring. They need these resources from a range of different types of plants. Like us, diverse diets make bees healthy. As well as that, areas with greater plant diversity often have great bee diversity too.
Some fun facts about native bees
- There are currently 1630 native bee species in Australia
- The Gold Coast region is home to an estimated 200 native bee species.
- These bees come in all sorts of colours and sizes. The biggest is 2.5cm long and the smallest barely more than 2mm long!
- 70% of Australia’s bees nest in tunnels in the ground
- Queensland has the smallest bee in the world, at just 1.8mm
- Most Australian native bee species can sting, but only the females. Male bees cannot sting.
- Eusocial bees live in colonies or hives. There are only three native, highly eusocial bee species on the Gold Coast. These are the stingless bees, also known as sugarbag bees or bush bees. These tiny black bees nest in cavities in trees and logs, or in human-made structures such as walls and water meter boxes. They are completely stingless, and they are commonly kept by people in hives.
- Most bees however do not live in colonies. Instead they live alone and are called solitary bees.
- Some common ground nesting solitary bees on the Gold Coast include the blue banded bees, teddy bear bees, emerald Homalictus bees and Lipotriches bees
Your backyard, courtyard, rooftop or balcony has the opportunity to support our native plants and animals including our native bees by providing habitat and a food source.
Planting a range of different local native plants in your garden will help support a variety of bees, as well as other pollinators. Bees will visit flowers from all sorts of plants, including ground covers, vines, shrubs, and trees. While some native bees will commonly visit the flowers of exotic plants such as fruit tree, vegetable and edible herbs, many native bees will mostly, or only, visit native plants. So, to maximise the number of species that may visit your garden, plant lots of local native plants. Native plants help native bees!
We’ve provided a list below on some native plants that will be sure to create a buzz in your backyard
Snake Vine – Hibbertia Scandens
A vine that can climb a trellis or scramble along the ground with dark green leaves and bright yellow bee attracting flowers that occur most of the year but primarily through Spring and Summer. It loves a sunny spot in your garden but is also perfect to be grown in pots in a sunny spot on your balcony.
Purple Pea Vine – Hardenbergia violacea
This vine is becoming a wild favourite amongst home gardeners due to its vigorous splashes of purple flowers that not only add colour but bring a wide range of bees. It can climb, but also scramble or drape down from a hanging basket or pot. It’s a great addition to a sunny spot in your garden or in a pot.
Fan Flower – Scavolea aemula
Also known as Fairy Fan Flower for its cute tiny fan shaped flowers that can be blue, purple or mauve and flower in the hundreds creating a wildflower type effect. It’s an easy one to propagate from cuttings to grow your collection. Find a sunny spot in a pot or your garden for this beauty.
Purple Pea Flower – Hovea acutifolia
A small shrub up to a couple of metres in height that will grow well in full sun but prefers dappled shade. Produces masses of irresistible pea shaped mauve to purple flowers that occur from winter to spring.
Scrub Cherry – Syzygium australe
In the wild this usually grows into a large size tree in the rainforest but if you’re thinking of growing a hedge look no further than this native stunner. Not only is it bee attracting but the butterflies and birds love it to and it grows perfect as a hedge in full sun or part shade. It has pretty white fragrant flowers with deep pink fruits.
Bulbine Lilly – Bulbine bulbosa
If you have these you’ll have bees! They can’t get enough of this native lily with its yellow star shaped flowers on long stalks flowering from September through to March. It loves sunny positions and grows well in rockeries and as clumps. It’s also perfect in outdoor pots but needs good drainage.
Pig Face – Carpobrotus glaucescens
Don’t let the name deter you. It’s affectionately named this due to its pink round flower face and yellow centre slightly resembling a pig’s face. You’ve probably noticed it growing along our beaches but it’s also a great feature in suburban gardens and a good native creeping succulent that requires little water but loves a lot of light.
Blue Flax Lilly – Dianella brevipedunculata
A strappy green grass like plant with throws of blue to purple that the bees can’t resist. It doesn’t mind sun, part shade or full shade so it’s pretty versatile and grows well in clumps for a lovely feature.
Palm Lily – Cordyline congesta
An attractive palm with long strappy green leaves up to 2m in height, it does prefer a shaded moist position in your garden or works well in a pot under a patio with some dappled light. While you’ll only see the flowers for a couple of months throughout the year they are a sight to be seen when they do. They produce lilac-white flowers on multiple long stems.
Thyme Honey Myrtle – Melaleuca thymifolia
This is a low growing shrub suitable for most garden types but enjoys the sun to part shade. It has the cutest little pink to purple curly flowers that are stemless and grow in clusters and attracts all nectar loving insects and birds.
You can view a more extensive list of bee friendly plants and information about the native bees of the Gold Coast with our Backyard Biodiversity Native Bee booklet.
The Friends of the Gold Coast Regional Botanic Gardens sell a wide range of native plants to attract bees, birds and other wildlife such as butterflies. You can connect with them via Facebook to see what their nursery stock.
Our NaturallyGC program host workshops and activities about native bees for all ages and will be providing live online activities. You can check out the NaturallyGC program here or bee-come a member to keep updated.
You can also learn how to make your very own bee hotels with NaturallyGC online here.