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Green Carpenter Bee

What is the Green Carpenter Bee Conservation Project?

Wheen Bee Foundation is a proud supporter of the Green Carpenter Bee Conservation Project. Initially started on Kangaroo Island, the focus of this project has recently expanded due to the impacts of the catastrophic 2020 bushfires.

Background

The green carpenter bee (Xylocopa aerata) is a metallic green native bee species and one of the largest solitary native bees found in southern Australia. It is found in the western half of Kangaroo Island, in conservation areas around Sydney, and in the Great Dividing Range in New South Wales. The bees went extinct on mainland South Australia in 1906, likely due to land clearing, and were last seen in Victoria in early December 1938 in the Grampians, which burnt completely during the Black Friday fires of January 1939.

A fire-vulnerable species

Green carpenter bees make their nests in dead wood, which burns easily making the bees vulnerable to fire. If their nests burn, adult female green carpenter bees might fly away but are unlikely to live long enough to reproduce again. Green carpenter bees mainly dig their nests in two types of soft wood: dry flowering stalks of grass trees and large, dead Banksia trunks. Grass trees flower prolifically after fire, but the dry stalks are only abundant between two and five years after fire. Banksia species don’t survive fire and need to grow for at least 30 years to become large enough for green carpenter bees to use. With increasingly frequent and intense fires, there isn’t enough time for Banksia trunks to grow big enough before they’re wiped out by the next fire.

If you have seen a Green Carpenter Bee or a nest entrance in a dry grass tree stalk on Kangaroo Island, researchers would like to hear from you.

Please complete the details of your sighting on the following form.

Download the Green Carpenter Bee Conservation Project information fact sheet for more information.

Green Carpenter Bee

Male Green Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa aerata).

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A helping hand after the 2007 bushfires

In 2007, bushfires on Kangaroo Island burnt almost all of Flinders Chase National Park. However, in unburnt areas adjacent to the park, green carpenter bee nests were still present. These bees colonised the dry grass tree stalks that resulted from the fire in the park.

In 2012, most flowering stalks had decayed. In an attempt to bolster population size, a small group of entomologists successfully developed artificial nesting posts to tide the bees over until newly grown Banksia would become available. Between 2014 and 2020, almost 300 female green carpenter bees made nests in the posts.

The 2020 Kangaroo Island bushfires

In 2020, Kangaroo Island experienced its largest bushfires in recorded history. At the time of the 2020 bushfires, 150 nesting posts contained nests with mature brood. They all burnt, along with most of the remaining Banksia habitat, which the green carpenter bees rely on.

After extensive surveys of unburnt vegetation, 17 occupied nests were located, and a small number of green carpenter bees were seen foraging. This gave hope that the bees would recover and colonise the abundant dry grass tree stalks, as was seen after the 2007 fire. Unfortunately, this did not happen. The existing nests decayed, and for two years, no new nests were found and no live bees were seen.

A new discovery

In October 2023, after the most intense survey to date, two occupied nests were discovered in Banksia trunks in remnant unburnt vegetation. While green carpenter bees are still present on the island, they have become very rare. Researchers need help from the public to locate the remaining green carpenter bees on Kangaroo Island to provide them with additional nesting posts as the grass tree stalks decay. While green carpenter bees are rare, they are relatively easy to spot when flying. They are flashy, metallic green, larger than honey bees and distinguishable from honey bees and large metallic flies by their distinctive buzz.

Submit a green carpenter bee sighting