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#PolliNationSA | Bee biogeography

Published on April 25th 2021
A close up of a flower
Like other animals and plants, bees have several specific distribution patterns.
A few bees are distributed throughout South Africa, but even then the South-Western Cape bees are often different, like the honeybee that has a different Cape subspecies, to those in the rest of the country.
The general pattern is that the country is divided into halves down the middle from north to south. Those on the western side of the country are mostly endemic to that region. And the fynbos and Namaqualand each have a fair number of endemics. Unlike plants where the fynbos is most interesting, I think that Namaqualand bees are more interesting.
A small insect on a branch
A male long legged oil bee peeping from its nest. Photo by Annalie Melin.
Large Carpenter bees throughout the world are more common and diverse in the equatorial and tropical regions. In South Africa the pattern is similar, except in the South Western Cape Province there are a few endemic species. The bees that occur on the eastern side of the country often extend northward into East Africa.
Distribution maps record every locality where a particular species was collected. This is somewhat misleading because many bees are common in some areas, but an odd specimen turns up far from where they are common but gets an equal representation on the map.
A close up of a rock
Female long legged oil bee peeping from its nest. Photo by Annalie Melin.
Some bees, like Rediviva, which pollinates Diascia, the oil plants, has winter rainfall and summer rainfall Eastern Cape species and does not occur anywhere else. Small carpenter bees, which frequently visit ericas, have their principal diversity and abundance in the South Western Cape. Others, like Fidelia, which pollinate the yellow thistle (Berkheya sp.) occur between Cape Town and southern Angola, except one species that occurs in Morocco.

Learn more about the fascinating world of bees in the articles below.

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