Bee diversity of the Southwest Pacific has been reported as depauperate despite the otherwise rich biodiversity and complex geological history for this region. However, due to a lack of bee-specific sampling, there is potential for higher bee diversity than previous studies suggest. Here, we review the current literature to summarise the extant diversity for each of the main island groups, the likely passages of species dispersal, and outline the main threats to Southwest Pacific populations. As key pollinators for both cultivated and native angiosperms, ensuring the persistence of native bee populations is critical for both food security and biodiversity conservation. With impending threats from land use change, invasive species and climate change, among others, understanding the true species diversity is important for assigning conservation priorities. We argue that future research in the region must encourage local expertise and build this into global research directions in an effort to address a lack of fundamental knowledge of bee diversity in island ecosystems.