What Pollinator is That?

Some additional information about some of the insects you may see while watching flowers during the Wild Pollinator Count. For identification tips visit this page.

Here are some common insect pollinators you may see visiting flowers in Australia.

Blue-banded beeBlue-banded bees  Amegilla species have pale blue stripes (that can look nearly white or grey) and a loud buzz. These native bees are commonly seen in gardens, especially in summer.

 

 

Native bee

Other native bees  Native bees vary in shape and color. Keep an open mind when watching flowers as you may not initially recognise these as bees. Many native bees appear quite hairy; but some are ‘smooth’ looking. They may have stripes or be mostly one color. Some are similar in size to honey bees, while others are just a few millimetres long. Some have special hairs to carry pollen on their legs or abdomen (and you may be able to see the pollen on them), while others do not.

 

Native bee (Exoneura spp.)

Native bee: Exoneura species often have a red abdomen.

 

 

 

Native colletid bee (N.B. looks similar to a honey bee, but smaller in size)

 

Native colletid bees can look similar to a honey bee, but are smaller in size.

 

honeybeeEuropean honey bee (Apis mellifera)  Can range in color from golden to quite dark. Have a somewhat hairy appearance and often a ‘striped’ look that we’ve come to associate with them. They carry pollen on their back legs, but can also be covered in pollen after visiting large flowers like pumpkin.

 

Wasp (European wasp, Vespula germanica)European wasp (Vepula germanica) have neon yellow stripes, a thickset body and thick black antennae. They are a large wasp and can be fond of our food and drink, so have a reputation as a nuisance.

 

Tiphiid wasp (or flower wasp)

Flower wasp (or tiphiid wasp). These can be completely black or striped yellow and black. They have a distinctive wasp ‘waist’ and long slender abdomen. In spring and summer, they can often be seen flying around ‘in copula’, where the male and wingless female are joined together during mating (see below).

 

P1010324 Mating flower wasps. The male is the larger wasp, with wings, and the female is much smaller, without wings and curled around in this photo.

 

 

 

Wingless female flower wasp

Female flower wasps are often wingless and may look like ants. They release a pheromone to attract the males. Once mated, they lay their eggs in underground nests.

 

 

Wasp (Ichneumonidae spp.)

Many large parasitic wasps, e.g. species in the Ichneumonidae and Gasteruptiidae families, are also flower visitors and pollinators. They can be distinguished from other wasps by their long pencil-thin abdomen. They have other benefits as natural enemies of insect pests.

 

 

AntAnts are attracted to flowers to feed on sugary nectar, but they don’t always pollinate. Look for pollen on the ant’s body. Or see if you can tell when they are only robbing nectar from the base of the flower cup (and leaving pollination to another insect!).

 

 

Winged ant (N.B. If you're not sure if it's a wasp or a winged ant, look for lots of other wingless ants nearby).

Winged ants are not common flower visitors, and can be easily mistaken for wasps. A winged ant will usually be surrounded by lots of other ants, while most wasps forage alone.

 

Hoverfly

Hover flies (or Syrphid flies) may be confused with bees because of their gold and black striped abdomen. On closer inspection, the differences are obvious. Their characteristic hovering flight is easy to spot and their abdomen is flat when looking side-on, while bee abdomens are rounded. They have classic, large round ‘fly eyes’. In some species, it may look like they have a black line down the centre of the abdomen dividing the stripes into two sections.

 

P1010803

Another hover fly- there are many species and variations in color, patterns and size.

 

 

Meat flyCalyptrate flies (Muscidae, Calliphoridae, Sarcophagidae, Tachinidae) need no introduction! But as well as annoying us, many of them are also pollinators and flower visitors, especially in cooler climates. They can be many colours, but are often metallic blue, green or black and may have yellow or grey markings.

 

 

P1010467

Blow fly There are many species of Blow Fly and you may be surprised to know they can be important pollinators!

 

 

ButterflyButterflies come in all shapes and sizes and are one of the most recognisable flower visitors.

 

 

 

P1020303

Skipper

 

 

Butterfly

 

 

 

MothMoths are important pollinators, but are hardly ever caught in the act as they mostly fly at night. Nevertheless, you may be lucky, depending on the time of day or flower you are watching. This is a usually night-active bogong moth found on an apple blossom in the middle of the day! (You don’t have to distinguish between moths and butterflies to record them in the Count).

P1020670Ladybird beetles are not common pollinators, but are important predators of insect pests. However, you may occasionally see ladybirds on some flowers.

 

 

P1010851Lots of other beetles (Coleoptera) visit flowers and can pollinate in the process.

Plague soldier beetles.

 

P1010459Pintail beetle. Very small with a pointed rear-end.

 

 

P1010363Clerid beetle.

 

 

 

P1010204True bugs (Heteroptera) are not generally considered pollinators, but may provide incidental pollination as they move around.

 

 

Keen to get some help to identify the insects you’ve seen? Check out the other links and content on our Resources pages.