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The Bees that Live in Lantana (Exoneura)

In the wild, the fascinating primitively-social reed bees (Exoneura) live in hollow pithy stems. These bees have discovered that old stands of lantana make wonderful nest sites. A number of bees may nest in the hollow inside each thick dead lantana cane, individually feeding their developing babies in the nest with honey and pollen. One bee will guard the nest entrance by blocking it with her red or black abdomen (hind segment). This looks like a tiny red or black spot, just inside the opening of the hollow in the cane.

So if you are removing mature stands of lantana with thick dead canes (especially canes which have been cut back in earlier pruning operations), take a close look! If you see the characteristic red or black spots of the Exoneura tails and you may have found some colonies of fascinating bees! Simply cut out the occupied canes (about 50 cm long) in the evening when the bees are home, lightly cover the entrance holes with tissue and tape and take them home to your garden. Mount the canes in groups in a suitable shrub in your garden with the entrance ends of the canes facing downwards about 45 degrees and you will have saved some colonies of Australian native bees.

Note: Exoneura bees can give a small sting; so handle them carefully.

Like to learn more about the fascinating reed bees (Exoneura)? See the feature article and photos in Aussie Bee Issue 6.

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