Saturday, 4 August 2012

On Solitary Bees ...

When we received this 'solitary bee hive' (a bit of a contradiction from a sales point of view?) I was sceptical, I admit.  But I was clearly wrong, not something which upsets me too much.  Watching the Olympics this afternoon, I kept noticing insects flying in front of the patio doors and heading for this contraption.  Gently turning it around I was amazed to see the amount of work the bees had done over the past week and realise I maybe should follow their example and get going on the next book!  At times they were carrying pieces of leaf as big as themselves to line the cane chambers above; this takes a long time, as the hollow canes are long and as far as I could see, they carefully place a piece of neatly cut leaf, then lay an egg and leave a small amount of nectar to feed the young when they hatch, then seal with another piece of leaf.  I imagine each cane houses several eggs with a separate food supply.  The end of the cane is sealed roughly, as can be seen in my photograph.

A bit more about solitary bees from the Royal Entomological Society website below:-

There are more than 200 species of solitary bee in Britain. They are so named because, unlike honeybees and bumblebees, they do not live in colonies. The first solitary bees to appear in the garden, as early as March each year, are the miner bees (Andrena). Similar to honeybees in appearance, they lack pollen baskets on their hind tibiae. These hairy bees make nests in the ground, usually in sandy soil and along paths. The female will dig the nest, stock it with nectar and pollen and then seal it, leaving the young to fend for themselves. Also to be seen later on in the season are the leaf-cutter bees such as the Megachile species, which cut neat circles out of rose leaves and petals to build nests in dead plant stems or sometimes in stacks of old flowerpots. These bees resemble honeybees but can be distinguished by the bright orange pollen brushes under their abdomens. All solitary bees are excellent pollinators and should be encouraged into your garden.

After the very low count of honey bees present in the garden this year, I realise how important the solitary bees are and perhaps I'll be buying some more bee houses soon.  I don't think we can have many more flowering shrubs and plants in the garden to attract wildlife than we have at the moment.  I took the photo below today - not only are we low on honey bees, but apart from a couple of plain whites and small blues, butterfly numbers are poor too.

Really pleased with these annual mallows - a free packet of seeds carelessly sown, creates a beautiful array of big flowers.