Understanding and Promoting Solitary Bees in The UK – UK Wildlife Conservation

When we think of bees, most of the time we associate them with honey and the buzzing sound bumblebees make. However, did you know that of the total 270 bee species we have in Britain, 250 are not producing any honey? These species are called solitary bees, and although they don`t produce honey, they are still a beneficial and essential part of the ecosystem. Solitary bees are remarkable pollinators, and that is why we should pay closer attention to them. In this article, you will learn about their nesting habits and get some advice on how to promote the solitary bee population in your garden.

These bees don`t live in colonies like honey bees and bumblebees, hence the name solitary bees. The population of solitary bees in Britain is very diverse. As such, their nesting habits are different. Most of our solitary bees tend to make their nest in the ground. The female, after finding a satisfactory spot, digs out a hole in the ground with her body. This hole acts as the nesting chamber after she puts pollen in it, which is drenched with nectar. Now she can lay her egg in it, and after sealing the hole off, she moves on to build her next nesting chamber.

Other kinds of solitary bees build their nest in lofty places. For their aerial nests, they mostly choose abandoned beetle holes. These solitary bees are the ones which will most likely inhabit the artificial bee nests in your garden (but more on that later).  And then we have three kinds of solitary bees which nest in empty snail shells. They chew up leaves and seal off their nests, then proceed to camouflage the snail shell.

If you want to help the solitary bee population, make your garden as diverse as possible. Use native wildflowers and plant them as borders to your fruits and vegetables. You should also keep your garden blooming from spring to autumn. Some solitary bees are active only in spring; others are active in the summer or autumn. Others are active all year around. This way you can ensure that every kid can get his pollen when it is needed.

When you leave parts of your ground bare and mulch free, you will help the solitary bees which nest in the ground. They can`t dig out their nesting chamber when it is covered with mulch; keeping the ground clean will help a great deal.  Also, you can drill holes in dead trees which are still standing. This way you can make room for aerial nesting. Or you can get into the business of bee real estate and offer artificial housing for solitary bees. You can get bee hotels online or in garden stores.

And last but not least, please seek alternatives for chemical pesticides. They do affect more than just pests and can be avoided by natural solutions. You can attract natural pest-eaters by planting the right plants and by adding plants which naturally repel pests you can turn down your chemical pesticides even more.