Thousands of 'Fluffy' Burrowing Bees Emerge From Underground for Mating Season

These definitely aren't your average honeybees.

Native to Australia, the Dawson's Burrowing Bee, also known as Amegilla dawsoni, is known for its massive size and practically-furry exterior. Unlike the bees we know and love stateside, these rarefied critters are solitary creatures: instead of living in a group hive, each female burrows into the ground, building a subterranean nest of her own.

Dawson's Burrowing Bees spend the majority of the year in these underground burrows, emerging between late July and early September—springtime in Australia—for mating season.

Bumblebee Flower
In contrast to bumblebees, Dawson's Burrowing Bees do not live in group hives, burrowing underground tunnels instead. A bumblebee landing on a flower, 2019. ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images

At Hamelin Station Reserve in northwestern Australia, these bees have just begun the yearly ritual, reported 9News. And according to Michelle Judd, who manages the reserve with Ken Judd, the bees are looking "healthy" as they appear for the first time in about a year.

The past year has seen higher-than-normal rainfall in the area, meaning that the bees' favorite flowers to forage, the poverty bush and rough bluebell, are bountiful. The reserve, run by Bush Heritage Australia, is believed to be home to 5,000 individual burrows.

"The bees normally come out of their holes at this time of the year but we're seeing a lot more than usual this year," said Judd. "They're not something that you see every day, and this population is particularly healthy."

She also added that "it's great that they're in a protected zone where they can continue to develop and not be impacted by disturbances." A video of the bees, posted to Facebook by Bush Heritage Australia, can be viewed here.

Once the bees mate, the females get to work digging new burrows, the interiors of which they line with wax and fill with pollen, nectar, and one egg each, reported The Guardian. After sealing off the tunnel, the female bee, sapped of energy, eventually dies.

The Dawson's Burrowing Bees at Hamelin are gregarious, busy, and social, explained Judd—however, despite their extroverted behavior, the bees are actually remarkably gentle around humans.

In one instance Judd recounted, a pair of bees even used a human hand as a mating site. "​​Two landed on the hand of one of the fellas. They were mating on his hand. He was just sitting really still and they just went about their business," she explained.

"It's fantastic, like it's just humming," Judd told The Guardian. "The noise from these bees, because they are quite large too, the humming is very loud."

She added that the unusual-looking insects are "so fluffy they are like teddy bears."

In addition to the Dawson's Burrowing Bees, Hamelin Station Reserve is home to "240 bird species," "820 species of plants," and many more animals—including the endemic Hamelin Skink, a tiny variety of lizard.

Newsweek has reached out to Bush Heritage Australia for additional comment.