Atlas of Living Australia and Bowerbird help us understand species distributions of all living organisms in Australia. This post demonstrates how these citizen science programs help us track and understand invasive species distributions in Australia.
The South African Carder bee, Afranthidium Immanthidium repetitum (Hymenoptera: Megachilidae) was first recorded in Brisbane in 2000 as an invasive and exotic bee. This bee is quite distinctive from all other native Australian megachilid bees in two ways: (1) The abdomen (called a metasoma) is striped with pigmented, white, transverse colour bands – colour bands on Australian bees is due to coloured hair not pigmented tissue; and, (2) the South African Carder bee nest is made from plant fibres and resembles cotton wool and rather than leaves or resin used by other Australian megachilid bees.
In 2008, the South African Carder bee was discovered as well established in Sydney. Then in February and March 2014, the Citizen Science website BowerBird received two observations which extended this bees known distribution hundreds of kilometres north and south from where it was known. The record, with photographic evidence, came from Rockhampton (http://www.bowerbird.org.au/observations/14106) and Albury (http://www.bowerbird.org.au/observations/12928).
All identified BowerBird record are uploaded to Australia’s National Biodiversity Data aggregator ALA (Atlas of Living Australia). Here is the ALA distribution map for this species.
In early April 2014, the first images of the South African Carder bee were uploaded to BowerBird showing its behaviour of stripping and collecting plant fibers used to build its nest. (http://www.bowerbird.org.au/observations/15450). Since thenmore images of this behaviour have been posted (http://www.bowerbird.org.au/observations/15490).
The greatest problems posed by the introduction of any exotic bee is: “What will it pollinate?” Australia is now home to many exotic weed species but most of these weeds have not flourished in Australia because they did not arrive with the pollinator. As the South African Carder bee spreads to more parts of Australia, will it cause the increase in some weed species?more images of this behaviour have been posted (http://www.bowerbird.org.au/observations/15490).
Written by Ken Walker