Native bee attracting plants

Guest Post by Maree McCarthy


NO. 1 RULE: KEEP THEIR ENVIRONMENT POISON-FREE! (Remember – they are insects!)

NO. 2 RULE: PRESERVE BUSHLAND (Biodiversity is the key!) Allowing hoofed animals access, and removing dead wood and trees will soon wipe them out.


Here is a list of plants to feed and attract native bees.

• Austromyrtus dulcis (Midyim Berry) 30cm x 1m. Shade or Sun. Attractive pink new growth and small fruit that tastes like custard and nutmeg.

• Backhousia myrtifolia 6m. Beautiful cream flowers perfumed like honey and nutmeg.

Powdered leaves substitute for nutmeg. Oil from leaves is also a mozzie repellent.

• Baeckea virgata ‘La Petite’ 90cm. Sun or half shade. Weepy. Long flowering.

• Baeckea virgata Dwarf 70cm Sun. Very compact shrub and very hardy.

•  Eucalypts (also attracts small birds) There are dwarf forms. For example, E. maculate

‘Little Spotty’, E. Eximia ‘Nana’, E. curtisii and Grafted Gums).

• Eupomatia laurina Large arching bush with scrambling canes. Sweet scented flowers.

Also attracts many butterflies. Blue-Banded Bees love it.

• Hardenbergia violacea Many forms available – I like the small climbing form. You don’t notice it until it flowers a mass of purple in Spring.

• Leptospermum (Tea Trees) there are many natives to choose from. Try ‘Pacific Beauty’ .

• Melastoma affine and M. polyanthum Native Tibouchina, ‘Blue Tongue’. Mauve flowers very attractive to Blue Banded, and Teddy Bear Bees. Edible fruit that stains your tongue blue. There are dwarf varieties.

• Melaleuca spp. Many – try M. Thymifolia – long-flowering, mauve flwrs 1m.

• Xanthorrohea spp. (Grass Trees)


Lilly Pillies such as:

• Szygium leuhmannii Sun or half Shade. Weeping pink new growth. Red edible berries. Other dwarf forms of S. Leuhmannii ie ‘Lulu’.

• Syzygium australe ‘Compact Form’ 3-4m Sun or Shade. Dense Lush foliage to ground.

Good Screen. Hardy. Edible Fruit. White fluffy flowers.


…and many others such as:

• Boronia

• Bulbine

• Eriostemon

• Goodenia

• Grevillea

• Orthosiphon aristatus (Cat’s Whiskers)

• Phebalium

• Philydrum lanuginosum (Frogsmouth)

• Zieria


Long-tongued bees will favour tubular blooms such as:

• Correa 1-2m (Native Fushia)

• Westringia (ranges from ground covers, to 2m)

• Prostanthera (Mint Bushes – usually around 1-2m)


Long-flowering native plants that are favourites of native bees:

• Brachycome multifida (Cut-leaf Daisy)

• Bracteantha bracteata (Paper Daisies)


Reed Bees Love Australian plants in the Fabaceae family such as:

• Wattles

• Peas


Plants that specifically attract the ‘Buzz Bees’ such as the Teddy Bear, Carpenter and Blue-Banded Bees include:

• Dianella

• Hibbertia scandens (hardy native salt-tolerant climber, Sun or Shade, yellow flowers)

• Leptospermum (T-Tree)

• Macadamia – also the native honey bee Trigona carbonia is important to pollinate the Macadamia!

• Melastoma affine

• Orthosiphon aristatus (Cat’s Whiskers)

• Polyscias spp. (Native Elderberry 2m, Celery Wood 10m, Pencil Cedar narrow, 10m)

• Pomaderris – masses of creamy flower heads are very attractive to native bees, as well as

other insects.

• Westringia


Even dead shrubs and trees are home to many creatures. The metallic-green Peacock Carpenter Bee nests in dead dry flowering stalks of grass trees (Xanthorrhoea) or in soft wood such as Banksia and Leptospermum.





7 Responses to “Native bee attracting plants”
  1. Ann TREE says:

    I live in South Gippsland, it is colder than Melbourne (further South-East) and I can say yes we do have Native Bees here. Maybe not in the quantities’ like in other places. We did have a Tribe of young Male Black Stingless (30) set up home on our petunia on the Veranda, spring/summer 2013. Exciting! I emailed Ann Dollin with pics and she was able to ID them for us and said they were probably young males new out of the hive and looking for their own place. I am an Organic Gardener who gardens for a living and I am venturing more and more into wholistic practice. This Forum reminds me just how beautifully everything co-exists when left alone or with our encouragement. Many people have degraded the natural world so I am happy to give nature and people, a helping hand to learn and re-establish. I am not saying this is perfect but we have done a lot of damage. I fit Insect Hotels for gardeners and do ‘Bird and Bee attracting’ plantings, amongst other things. There are also many small bush animals here that need habitat, like the S. E. Bandicoot. I help create Frost barriers as we can get some mean frosts here, but they do pass. I love the way many are embracing the beauty and diversity of our home and recognising the need to care for it. WE need to!
    I will never forget my encounter with my first ever Blue Banded Bee. That was a magical moment.
    Thank you to all the lovely commenters.

  2. Michael says:

    Mike; the ones here in Sydney don’t live further south than Nowra, NSW. Yes, there are native bees further south but I think they may mostly be solitary bees, not the ones which nest together like the ones I have. There has to be some bee experts at the Melbourne Botanic Gardens – perhaps you can ask them? Just my thoughts, Michael

  3. Mike CCCCC says:

    Are there any native bees in melbourne i have read it’s too cold for them but i also saw a utuber who claims he has them in his yard at geelong????

  4. Metalman says:

    Great information. Drilling holes in timber and fence post so they have a safe home near their food supply helps too..

  5. bruce whish-wilson says:

    Hope above recommendations for native bees and various other types apply equally as well to my honey bees !

    Also frustrated by all websites describing their plants and flowers omit to grade them for their bee-attractiveness ! many more urban owners now keeping a hive in their garden, and state of flowers’ nectar quality is important value.

  6. Suzie Pearce says:

    Thanks Maree,
    Loved this information. We had some of these species on our nursery list but we able to add a few more and some extra information for our customers. Great to see an extensive list of native plants. Great work. Thanks again Suzie

  7. Maria O'Brien says:

    Native bees (Trigona spp) will also use and pollinate mango and avocado flowers and I have seen them in a Pemberton -bred musk rose ” Penelope”. Also in apricot and plum flowers , varieties unknown. I have had a hive of these bees in my garden for 40 years at first with only a couple of acacias and a Geralton Wax as native food sources. Over the last 30 years I have added more natives as have the neighbours. The bees don’t go more than 200 m from water which point you do not mention. Water is vital for life for bees As for other spp. Don’t be too precious in the prescription of plants as non- natives are still valuable and most grow over wider environmental ranges than the natives you recommend. Not many of the plants you suggest will withstand heavy frosts.

    Blue banded bees will use Agapanthus and they look spectacular together !

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