Bees belong to the order Hymenoptera, superfamily Apoidea. In this superfamily are 10 families, though only three are represented in New Zealand as native insects. Our total indigenous bee fauna consists of 19 species as compared with 925 in Australia. Probably the most interesting aspect of New Zealand bees is the lack of social species, our only representatives being the introduced honey and bumble bees. All our native species are solitary burrowers, of small size and lacking in conspicuous colour pattern. One group (Hylaeidae) is without pollen-collecting hairs, the others being equipped to transport relatively large pollen masses.
Native bees may frequently be seen during the summer months, feeding and gathering pollen at flowers, particularly on manuka (Leptospermum scoparium). Their burrows are common in dry areas, particularly where bare areas of sandy or friable soils are available for nesting purposes. The larvae are rather smooth, creamy-white, legless grubs with very small mouthparts and no eyes. These remain in the burrows where they are fed by the adult bees.
A slender wasp, sometimes seen with bees, is a parasite which attacks the larvae.
by Bruce Boucher Given, M.SC., Entomology Division, Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, Nelson.