Low-light adapted bees are substantially understudied components of the bee fauna, particularly in Australia. Whilst several species in Australia are thought to be adapted to low-light conditions, explicit records of these taxa actually foraging at twilight or night are absent from the scientific literature. We present the first observations of Australian bees foraging in low-light conditions as well as the first evidence of low-light foraging behaviour in the colletid bee subfamily, Hylaeinae. Using morphometrics of Australian and more broadly-distributed diurnal, facultative low-light and obligate low-light adapted bees, we explore the use of morphological traits to objectively assess possible low-light behaviour and corroborate low-light collection events. Our results show that it is possible to morphologically distinguish between diurnal and low-light adapted bees, and that there is a spectrum of characters that are associated with low light conditions. We use GIS to show that low-light adapted species occur mostly in the tropics, but that some species have subtropical, arid and even temperate distributions. As low-light foraging behaviour in bees is infrequently reported, it appears that low-light foraging behaviour is more common than currently appreciated, highlighting the need for extended bee-sampling periods and more consistent collection data to increase the understanding of this little-understood aspect of bee behaviour.
- Photic niche