Island’s bees are all the buzz

Finding a natural wonder in the Gascoyne

Big, furry and brightly coloured, Dawson’s burrowing bees circle low over the red earth, land with precision and immediately vanish into a small hole.

They are among the world’s biggest bees, pictured above, and found only in Western Australia.

David Attenborough’s film crew filmed them, complete with their mating frenzy and the subsequent death of the males, and it became an international film hit — and yet here they are on Babbage Island, between the town of Carnarvon and Pelican Point Road, on a slight rise, in dry but firm soil.

There’s a patch of the holes — but an active nesting colony of Amegilla dawsonican contain up to 10,000 burrows. They are between 15 and 30cm deep, the female bee making an urn-shaped brood cell at the bottom.

She waterproofs the walls with wax.

She then half-fills the brood cell with nectar and pollen (which sinks) before laying a single egg on the surface of the nectar. Then she caps the cell.

From October to June, the species survives as dormant larvae in the underground brood cells, with adults emerging and flying from July to September.

Here in Carnarvon, Yingarrda Aboriginals have traditionally dug up the cells to eat the grub of what they call the mungurrgurra burrowing bee.

Read the full story here.

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