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Fun Facts about Native Bees

Bee Facts


Ngāro huruhuru - a Native bee

Photographs courtesy of
Dr Ngaire Hart

Ngāro Huruhuru (Native bees) Fun Facts

  • There are only 27 species of these cute native bees left in NZ 

  • The are really really tiny and usually black

  • They are solitary and fly really fast

  • Some native bees blow bubbles to evaporate nectar 

  • They have short tongues (compared to honeybees)

  • Some have funny fluffy faces

  • They are often mistaken for flies 

  • They nest underground near each other and create large communities 

  • The male Ngāro huruhuru emerge from their nests first 

  • The males form cloud clusters around a native tree/shrub/bush

  • The females emerge and mate with the males

  • The males die soon after mating

  • Females build underground chambers

  • Females lay between 1- 14 eggs in their life span 

  • There is only one egg per chamber

  • The females place pollen on each egg before sealing the chamber

  • They are not aggressive and do not fly very far

  • They do not produce honey

  • They do not suffer from diseases like the honeybees 

  • They are a vital species for our native ecosystem

  • Their lifecycle takes a year to complete


Most of us are oblivious to the fact that NZ is home to 27 species of gorgeous Ngāro huruhuru aka  NATIVE BEES which belong to 3 families : Leioproctus, Hylaeus and Lasioglossum. These Ngāro huruhuru are endemic which means they only occur in Aotearoa and play a vital role in many of our eco-systems by means of effective pollination of our native plants.

The reason many of us are unaware of our native bees is because they bear little resemblance to honey or bumble bees either in behaviour or appearance.


In fact, native bees are really very very small, generally dark or black in color thus often confused as flies or wasps; plus they are fast, very flighty and do not settle on flowers for long.


Unlike their social cousins, most native bees are solitary so it can be hard to monitor them, yet there is still much to learn about their diversity, distribution and how we can help them survive.

This photo shows a female Ngāro huruhuru ready to deposit her pollen stash . The little holes in the clay are the entrances to her underground chambers.

For more information regarding the importance of Ngāro huruhuru extensive research has been done by Dr. Ngaire Hart of Whangarei. Her native bee studies are ongoing and are a huge resource for Aotearoa.

Ngaire Hart. (2016). Monitoring New Zealand's native bees: a collaborative approach using image analysis.

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Fun Facts about Honey Bees


Honey Bee Fun Facts

  • Honeybees can be found on every continent (except Antarctica)

  • Honey Bees sleep at night 

  • Male honey bees are called drones

  • Drones get to hang out in ‘boy clubs’ called DCA (Drone Congregation Areas)

  • Honey bees drink water 

  • Only female honey bees have stingers

  • Only queen honey bees can sting multiple times

  • Honey bees do not have a nose or ears

  • Honey bees are good at waggling their bums

  • Honey bees can be ‘robbers’

  • A queen honey bee can lay up to 2000 eggs a day!

  • Drones do not collect pollen, nectar or water

  • Italian honey bees were first introduced to NZ in 1839 by Mary Bumby

  • Carniolan honey bees were first introduced to NZ in 2004-2006 from Austria & Germany

  • Italian honey bees are generally amber or golden brown in colour

  • Carniolan honey bees are usually dark brown  or black in colour 

  • A Tiger Queen is part Italian part Carniolan 

  • Honey bees have 5 eyes and can see the ultraviolet spectrum of light (we can’t)

  • Honey bee mind their own beesness


Many pollinators and diverse types of bees are the main reason why the human race has access to many food sources. Bees pollinate at least 80% of the total insect-pollinated plants which form a good part of our diet. Most types of bees need pollen to feed their young and by gathering pollen they effectively fertilise flowering plants. ​Furthermore, honey bees are the only insects which produce natural products for human consumption : honey - propolis - beeswax - bee venom - pollen and royal jelly. 


Honey bees are social insects and they work together tirelessly and selflessly for the good of their hive. Their main goal is to produce enough food (honey) for the hive to survive through the various seasons and as they are extremely good at their job, humans get to share their excess honey stores. Honey bees also need year round pollen, nectar  and water to survive so it is important we provide them with staggered planting, abundant and varied flowers and trees to ensure they have enough food sources to forage on through each season. (see our Planting for Pollinators page )


Fun Facts about Bumble Bees


Bumble Bee Fun Facts

  • Bumblebees do not have ears

  • They have a long hairy tongue which they fold under their chin when flying

  • They live in nests underground

  • Only Bumblebee queens hibernate from late autumn to early spring

  • A queen bumble bee sits on her eggs like a bird to keep them warm 

  • Bumblebees do not produce honey 

  • Some bumblebees have fluffy white bums 

  • Bumblebees live together in family groups 

  • The queen bumble bee only survives for 1 year

  • Male bumblebees have only one chromosome (no father)

  • Bumblebees do not die once they sting 

  • They have smelly feet

  • They can reach speeds of  54kms per hour

  • Bumblebees fly and work in ALL weather conditions

  • They are more efficient pollinators than honey bees

  • Bumblebees are ‘buzz pollinators’

Bumblebees have lovely, rotund bodies covered in soft, fuzzy setae in bands of colour - usually black, yellow and white. NZ is home to 4 species of Bumblebees which are part of the following families : Bombus ruderatus, Bombus terrestris, Bombus hortorum, Bombus subterraneus (rare). These bees were all introduced from the UK for agricultural purposes.


For more information about Bumble bees visit NZ Bumblebee Conservation Trust

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