Australian Biological Resources Study

Australian Faunal Directory


Regional Maps


Compiler and date details

30 March 2006 - Updated and revised by Ken L. Walker, Museum Victoria, 11 Nicholson St, Carlton, Victoria, Australia

1993 - J.C. Cardale, CSIRO Division of Entomology, Canberra, Australia


The Colletidae are short-tongued bees, characterised by a short, broad glossa which is truncate, emarginate or bifid apically except in a few male Hylaeinae (McGinley 1980; Michener & Brooks 1984). In Australia, this family includes about half of the described species of bees. The species are more numerous and there is a greater diversity in Australia than in other parts of the world (Michener 1979).

The Colletidae are divided into five subfamilies: Colletinae and Hylaeinae, which have cosmopolitan distributions; Euryglossinae, which are endemic to Australia; and Diphaglossinae and Xeromelissinae, which are not known to occur in Australia (Michener 1965).

The females of this family line their brood cells with a transparent, cellophane-like material (Michener & Houston 1991)—a behaviour that is unique amongst bees. All Colletidae are thought to be solitary; no parasitic species are recorded from Australia. Rayment (1935) and Michener (1960) described the nests of several species and McGinley (1981) described larvae.

Short-tongued bees are not normally able to obtain nectar from flowers with deeply recessed nectaries but Houston (1983) described Colletidae with elongate palpi that are used to access such nectaries. Flower visiting records are given in Michener (1965), Armstrong (1979) and Bernhardt (1987).

While the subfamily Colletinae is cosmopolitan in distribution, the group is most abundant and diversified in Australia and South America. Formerly, the subgenus was divided into two tribes (Michener 1989), but it was noted that other groups, including the Australian endemic genus Callomelitta, might be sufficiently distinctive to warrant the introduction of other tribes. Until the matter is resolved, it was decided that the subfamily should not be divided into tribes (Michener 2000). A subsequent proposal by Engel (2005) that the subfamily sensu Michener should be split into three subfamilies, is not adopted in the Catalogue,.

The nine genera of Colletinae occur in Australia. Many are hairy bees of medium size (5–15 mm). The females transport pollen externally on the scopa on the hind legs, although Houston (1981b) recorded the alimentary transport of pollen in one species of Leioproctus. The forewing usually has three, sometimes two, submarginal cells. Females have a pygidial plate that is broadest basally; the basitibial plate is usually defined by a carina. Females construct nests in soil or occasionally in rotting wood. Houston (1989, 1990, 1991) described and gave information on the behaviour of some distinctive bees from Western Australia. Maynard (1991, 1992) revised two subgenera of Leioproctus.

The Euryglossinae are endemic to Australia and comprise 15 genera, five of which occur in Tasmania; one species, Euryglossina (Euryglossina) proctotrypoides Cockerell, was accidentally introduced into New Zealand (Donovan 1980). Adults are minute to medium in size (2–10 mm), usually sparsely haired and often with pale markings. A scopa is lacking and pollen is transported in the crop. The forewing usually has two submarginal cells, sometimes one. The pygidial plate of females is slender and parallel sided; the basitibial plate is recognisable, though often only outlined by a few tubercles. Adults usually nest in the soil, but a few species nest in holes in dead wood (Houston 1969). Exley revised most of the genera, including Euryglossina (Exley 1968), Pachyprosopis (Exley 1976a) and Euryglossa (Exley 1976b).

The Hylaeinae are cosmopolitan in distribution, but only in Australia do they constitute a major element of the bee fauna. In addition, the Australian Hylaeinae are more diverse than those of other biogeographic regions. There are nine genera, of which two have been recorded from Tasmania; one species, Hyleoides concinna (Fabricius), was accidentally introduced into New Zealand (Donovan 1983). Adults are minute to medium in size (3–13 mm), often slender, sparsely haired and usually dark coloured with pale markings on the face and thorax. Hylaeinae lack pollen-carrying scopae and the females carry pollen provisions for larvae in the crop. The forewing usually has two submarginal cells and the females usually lack pygidial and basitibial plates. Males of some Australian species have an acute glossa (Michener 1992). Most species nest in pithy stems or in pre-existing holes in dead wood, but a few nest in the soil. Houston (1975, 1981a) revised many of the genera.


General References

Armstrong, J.A. 1979. Biotic pollination mechanisms in the Australian flora—a review. New Zealand Journal of Botany 17: 467-508 [Date published 31/12/1979]

Bernhardt, P. 1987. A comparison of the diversity, density, and foraging behavior of bees and wasps on Australian Acacia. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Gardens 74: 42-50 [Date published 31/12/1987]

Donovan, B.J. 1980. Interactions between native and introduced bees in New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Ecology 3: 104-116 [Date published 31/12/1980]

Donovan, B.J. 1983. Occurrence of the Australian bee Hyleoides concinna (Hymenoptera: Colletidae) in New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Zoology 10: 345-348 [Date published 31/12/1983]

Engel, M. 2005. Family-Group Names for Bees (Hymenoptera: Apoidea). American Museum Novitates 3476: 1-33

Exley, E.M. 1968. Revision of the genus Euryglossina Cockerell (Apoidea: Colletidae). Australian Journal of Zoology 16: 915-1020 [Date published 31/12/1968]

Exley, E.M. 1976a. New species and records of Pachyprosopis Perkins (Apoidea: Colletidae: Euryglossinae). Journal of the Australian Entomological Society 14: 399-407 [Date published 31/12/1976]

Exley, E.M. 1976b. Revision of the subgenus Euryglossa Smith (Apoidea: Colletidae: Euryglossinae). Australian Journal of Zoology Supplementary Series 41: 1-72 [Date published 31/12/1976]

Houston, T.F. 1969. The systematics and biology of Australian hylaeine bees (Hymenoptera: Colletidae). Unpubl. PhD Thesis. Brisbane : University of Queensland. 423 pp.

Houston, T.F. 1975. A revision of the Australian hylaeine bees (Hymenoptera: Colletidae). I. Australian Journal of Zoology Supplementary Series 36: 1-135 [Date published 31/12/1975]

Houston, T.F. 1981a. A revision of the Australian hylaeine bees (Hymenoptera: Colletidae). II. Australian Journal of Zoology Supplementary Series 80: 1-128 [Date published 31/12/1981]

Houston, T.F. 1981b. Alimentary transport of pollen in a paracolletine bee (Hymenoptera: Colletidae). Australian Entomological Magazine 8: 57-59 [Date published 31/12/1981]

Houston, T.F. 1983. An extraordinary new bee and adaptation of palpi for nectar-feeding in some Australian Colletidae and Pergidae (Hymenoptera). Journal of the Australian Entomological Society 22: 263-270 [Date published 31/12/1983]

Houston, T.F. 1989. Leioproctus bees associated with Western Australian smoke bushes (Conospermum spp.) and their adaptations for foraging and concealment (Hymenoptera: Colletidae: Paracolletini). Records of the Western Australian Museum 14: 275-292 [Date published 31/12/1989]

Houston, T.F. 1990. Descriptions of new paracolletine bees associated with flowers of Eremophila (Hymenoptera: Colletidae). Records of the Western Australian Museum 14: 583-621 [Date published 31/12/1990]

Houston, T.F. 1991. Two new and unusual species of the bee genus Leioproctus Smith (Hymenoptera: Colletidae), with notes on their behaviour. Records of the Western Australian Museum 15: 83-96 [Date published 31/12/1991]

Maynard, G.V. 1991. Revision of Leioproctus (Protomorpha) Rayment (Hymenoptera: Colletidae) with description of two new species. Journal of the Australian Entomological Society 30: 67-75 [Date published 31/12/1991]

Maynard, G.V. 1992. Revision of Leioproctus (Cladocerapis) Cockerell (Hymenoptera: Colletidae). Journal of the Australian Entomological Society 31: 1-11 [Date published 31/12/1992]

McGinley, R.J. 1980. Glossal morphology of the Colletidae and recognition of the Stenotritidae at the family level (Hymenoptera: Apoidea). Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society 53: 539-552 [Date published 31/12/1980]

McGinley, R.J. 1981. Systematics of the Colletidae based on mature larvae with phenetic analysis of apoid larvae (Insecta, Hymenoptera, Apoidea). University of California Publications in Entomology 91: 1-309 [Date published 31/12/1981]

Michener, C.D. 1960. Notes on the behavior of Australian colletid bees. Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society 33: 22-31 [Date published 31/12/1960]

Michener, C.D. 1965. A classification of the bees of the Australian and South Pacific regions. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 130: 1-362 [Date published 31/12/1965]

Michener, C.D. 1979. Biogeography of the bees. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Gardens 66: 277-347 [Date published 31/12/1979]

Michener, C.D. 1989. Classification of American Colletinae (Hymenoptera, Apoidea). University of Kansas Science Bulletin 53: 622-703 [Date published 31/12/1989]

Michener, C.D. 1992. Sexual dimorphism in the glossa of Colletidae (Hymenoptera, Apoidea). Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society 65: 1-9 [Date published 31/12/1992]

Michener, C.D. 2000. The Bees of the World. Baltimore, Maryland : Johns Hopkins University Press 913 pp.

Michener, C.D. & Brooks, R.W. 1984. A comparative study of the glossae of bees (Apoidea). Contributions of the American Entomological Institute 22: 1-73 [Date published 31/12/1984]

Michener, C.D. & Houston, T.F. 1991. Apoidea. pp. 993-1000 in CSIRO (ed.). The Insects of Australia. A textbook for students and research workers. Melbourne : Melbourne University Press Vol. 2 pp. 543-1137.

Rayment, T. 1935. A Cluster of Bees. Sixty essays on the life-histories of Australian bees, with specific descriptions of over 100 new species, and an introduction by Professor E.F. Phillips, D.Ph., Cornell University, U.S.A. Sydney : Endeavour Press. 752 pp.


History of changes

Note that this list may be incomplete for dates prior to September 2013.
Published As part of group Action Date Action Type Compiler(s)
22-Oct-2015 20-Sep-2012 MODIFIED
07-Aug-2012 07-Aug-2012 MODIFIED
12-Feb-2010 (import)