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Have you ever heard of a solitary bee? Say bees to most people and generally first thoughts are for honey, hives, white suits and stings. But did you know that around 90% of our bee species in the UK are solitary: meaning they live alone?
Solitary bees are vital for the ecosystem. Read on to find out more about how you can help them thrive.
The key differences between solitary bees and our other bees in the UK is that solitary bees live alone and don’t swarm or have a queen, though they will happily nest close to one another. They don’t produce honey but they are really effective pollinators.
Solitary bees are vital for pollinating our crops, as well as flowers and trees. In some parts of China, pollination is already being undertaken by hand because there are no bees left to do it. A bleak future awaits a world without bees.
We used to think that honey bees were the biggest contributors to crop pollination but we know that simply isn’t the case today, all types of bees are important.
Because solitary bees don’t have honey to protect they are non aggressive, meaning they are safe around pets and children. The males generally have no sting and the females will only sting if mishandled. This means they are perfect to encourage into your garden, allotment, or new build development.
Generally (across the species) solitary bees emerge from their nests in the spring. Males emerge first and feed then wait for the females to appear. Once mating is complete the males die fairly quickly… what a life! After mating, the females begin the process of nesting, selecting a suitable site, constructing the nest and laying anything between 1 and 20 eggs.
The female eggs will be at the back of the nest and the males at the front. The eggs will hatch into larvae, which feed on pollen and nectar that the female has stored within each nest. The larvae develop and pupate, emerging the following spring and repeating the cycle.
There are many factors in declining solitary bee numbers, including increased use of chemicals in farming, less wildflower meadows and less suitable habitat. As fields become bigger we lose more hedgerows, which used to provide ample homes to a wide range of wildlife. Also as we build more and more properties and landscape our gardens we unwittingly destroy habitat and nests as we do so.
Green&Blue have developed the bee brick as a means of increasing consideration for the habitat of solitary bees, by creating a possible nesting site for them in each new development, garden or wall.