Bees and Wasps in the Cairns Botanic Gardens

Buggin with Bridgey is a Monthly report of sightings from the Let’s Go Buggin Cairns Nature Tour in the Cairns Botanic Gardens.  As the months roll by, subtle changes in the seasons bring sightings of new creatures and this report aims to give people a wrap up of the current animals seen as well as provide an ongoing citizen science account of our wonderful critters that can be seen in the tropical north of Queensland.

Buggin with Bridgey – September 2022

Blue Banded Bee sleeping while hanging from a green stem

Blue Banded Bee (Amegilla)


Blue Banded Bees (Amegilla)

Certainly a favourite for Let’s Go Buggin participants is the Blue Banded Bee (Amegilla cingulata), even though this one pictured above doesn’t exhibit the blue bands, it is in fact part of the genus of Blue Banded Bees (Amegilla).  Bees can sometimes sleep outside the hive and when they do, they clasp down on a plant stem and hang like this one pictured.  It’s a little disconcerting as they don’t have eyelids, making them appear as though they are still awake.  If you move gently and slowly it’s a great opportunity for a cute picture.

Burrowing Bees (Halictidae)

Occasionally we can encounter a very cute fluffy bee species called Mellitidia tomentifera.  They are a type of Burrowing Bee, with the solitary females making nests in the ground. Males will not sleep in the nest, but will cluster on plants and sleep together at night.  They are endemic to the Wet Tropics of Queensland.

Honey Bees

Of course we do see a decent number of honey bees in and around the Cairns Botanic Gardens, especially in Spring when there is an abundance of flowers.  This one pictured is likely to be a European Honeybee.

Banksia Bee

One of more glamourous species is the Banksia Bee (Hylaeus alcyoneus).  They exhibit the loveliest yellow and green bodies and often hover around some of the prettiest flowers which makes for some excellent photographic opportunities.  The male of this species will fiercely guard a location that a female might find appealing so he can increase his chances of mating with her.

Burrowing Bee (Mellitidia tomentifera), European Honeybee, Banksia Bee (Hylaeus alcyoneus)

Native Stingless Bees (Tetragonula)

Probably our most common species, these delightful little bees are Native Stingless Bees (Tetragonula).  They can often be seen making little hive entrances around buildings with a woody mud-like substance that they neatly glue together.   They will also aggregate around certain trees to make new hives and there is also a man-made hive setup for them near Friends House in the gardens as well.  This is a great way to see them entering and exiting the hive.  They are gorgeous little things, only about 4mm and you can get up close and personal with them knowing that they don’t have a sting.  They don’t even seem to notice you are there as well, instead just getting on with their busy-bee lives.

This particular image was taken during an apparent event of the young queens exiting the hive.   They will aggregate close by to the hive entrance, awaiting for the new queens to exit and disperse to make their own hives.

A Business of Native Stingless bees clustering on a green leaf

Native Stingless Bees (Tetragonula)


Yellow Hairy Flower Wasp

This cheeky-grinned wasp is one of the larger species, reaching up to three centimetres in length.  The adult wasps live on flowers.  When they are ready to reproduce the females will locate a beetle larvae burrow, entering via the hole made by the adult beetle.  They will lay an egg on the larvae and it will hatch and live externally on the grub until it eventually dies.  Their chosen victim is scarab beetle larvae.  This behaviour (living externally on another creature) is referred to as an ectoparasite.

Yellow Hairy Flower Wasp sittin on a leaf

Yellow Hairy Flower Wasp (Campsomeris tasmaniensis) Family Scoliidae

Cuckoo Wasp (Chrysidisae)

Super challenging to photograph, and I’m not overly stoked with this image, but I’m sure you will appreciate the beauty of it from this average photograph.  Rarely seen, and super busy wasps are these incredibly armoured beauties.   They are parasitic to other wasps and will lay their eggs in the nests of other wasps.  Once they hatch they will eat both the larvae of the other wasp species and their food as well.

Paper Nest Wasps (Vespidae Family)

Like their namesake, Paper Nest Wasps will make nests from tree pulp mixed with their saliva.  Hexagonal shaped cylindrical cups will hold one egg each and the larvae will develop inside, and then pupates into adulthood and eventually emerges and flies away.  Even though these wasps can be aggressive if you come into contact with them, I have found them to be quite tolerant and will allow my camera to get as close as just a few centemetres without them reacting.

Cuckoo Wasp (Chrysidisae), Paper Nest Wasps (Vespidae Family)

Spider Wasps (Pompilidae)

Not everyone’s idea of a nice bug to be sure, especially given their name, but this family of wasps are seriously impressive creatures.  They will often take down venomous spiders many times bigger than themselves.  I’ve been lucky enough to witness a number of these take-downs, and this is an exhilarating encounter to say the least.  The Wasps will paralyse their prey initially, then usually they will cut off the spiders legs, to reduce the weight and then fly them back to their nests in the ground where they will be consumed by the larvae.

Spider Wasps with various spider victims, Tropical St Andrews Cross, Lichen Huntsman, Jungle Huntsman with legs removed, Jungle Huntsman with legs still attached.

Join me to explore the Cairns Botanic Gardens to try and spot some of these beautiful flies on a Let’s Go Buggin Tour.  Use ‘blog’ as the coupon code for 20% discount on your tour booking.

Next Blog end of October 2022.

Bridgette uses a variety of Olympus OM SYSTEM Cameras and Lenses