Solitary Bee Week

Although we are all familiar with the important role that bumblebees and honeybees play in pollination, over 90% of the UK’s 267 bee species are in fact solitary bees. Pollinating animals are responsible for one third of the food we consume and solitary bees are particularly efficient pollinators. Unlike other bees solitary bees do not have pollen baskets and so transfer much more pollen between flowers, meaning a single red mason bee provides a pollination service equivalent to 120 worker honey bees. This makes them a critical resource in our gardens and wider countryside and one that we should all be keen to protect. We have collated some information below on how to help encourage and preserve these fascinating creatures.

Ivy Bee © Sophie Cooper

Solitary Bee Ecology

Solitary bees use a wide range of nest sites including tunnels in wood or mortar, plant stems and even snail shells. They lay eggs in a series of cells and then block the entrance with materials such as mud, leaves or fine hair. The female lays an egg with a food source, made from pollen and nectar, before building a partition wall and moving on to the next cell. The bee larvae hatch, eat the food source then overwinter as a cocoon before emerging the following summer as adults.

Solitary Bee cells in the Solitary Beehive

There have been extremely worrying declines in insect numbers recorded across Europe, and solitary bees are no exception. The increased use of chemicals in farming, loss of flower meadow food sources and loss of nest sites in hedgerows and gardens are all combining to drive down numbers. The good news is that it is easy to provide food sources and nesting habitat in your garden to help solitary bees and increase pollination. 

Providing Resources for Solitary Bees

Provide food sources for solitary bees by planting wild flower seeds, native trees such as hawthorn and willow, bee friendly plants such as ivy, foxgloves and lavender and allowing plants such as borage and thistles to flower in your garden. Nest sites can be provided by leaving dead wood and stems standing, creating a patch of bare earth or mud bank for mining bees and by installing wild bee houses. 

BeePot Bee Hotel © Green & Blue

With careful design consideration, bee houses can provide shelter and nesting sites for solitary bees. Bee houses can be manufactured from a variety of materials but should have a good overhanging roof to protect the nesting tubes from rain, nesting holes between 2 and 10mm in diameter and a solid back. It is better to have a number of smaller bee houses, rather than one large house to reduce the risk of parasites finding the nest. Alternatively we have a wide range of solitary bee nesting habitats available on our website.

You can tell which species of bee is using your bee house by examining the material used to plug the entrance hole. Different species also emerge at different points in the year. The most common species likely to populate bee houses are red mason bees who use mud and are active March – July, leafcutter bees who use leaves and are active May – September, and wool carder bees who use fine hairs and are active June – August. Please note that there are fewer solitary bee species in the North of England and Scotland.

Leafcutter Bee in Action © Green & Blue

Solitary Bee House Siting and Maintenance

Insect houses should be sited at least 1m off the ground, facing south or south-east, with no vegetation covering the entrance and in full sun as insects need warmth to keep moving. They should be firmly fixed so that they don’t move in the wind. If your box is likely to be occupied by red mason bees then it is helpful to ensure that there is a patch of damp mud nearby. In order to maximise the chances of adults emerging successfully from the cocoons, it is a good idea to bring bee boxes indoors into an unheated shed or garage during the winter to avoid them getting too damp. The boxes should then be taken back outside in March in time for the new adults to emerge. There is some debate as to whether brick / concrete boxes should be cleaned but they can be cleaned out with a tent peg and pipe cleaner. Boxes with cardboard tubes should have the tubes replaced regularly. Keep an eye out for failed nests and tiny holes in the mud entrance as this can indicate that the nest tube has been taken over by parasites. 

Mining Bee © Ed Phillips

Suggested Solitary Bee Houses

Bee Brick

This Bee Brick can be used in place of a standard brick or as a standalone bee house in your garden or wild patch. Available in four colours. £29.99 £39.99

Solitary Beehive

This unique solitary beehive is made from durable FSC timber and designed specifically to attract solitary bees which are naturally attracted to holes in wood. £23.99 £29.99

 

Red Mason Bee Nest Box

The nest box is supplied with 29 individual nesting tubes, two sets of screws and plugs for mounting, and full instructions. £10.99

 

BeePot Bee Hotel

This is a fantastic concrete planter which doubles as a nesting place for solitary bees. Available in a range of colours and sizes, this is the larger size, the mini version is also available. £42.95 £49.99

WoodStone Insect Block

This WoodStone Insect Block is constructed from durable, FSC certified WoodStone with a nesting area created from reed stems.

£24.95 

 

Urban Bee Nester

This urban insect hotel is part of the contemporary range of wildlife habitats that have a sleek design for city living.

£20.99 £27.50

 

Suggested books on solitary bees

Solitary Bees
Paperback | July 2019| £19.99
An introduction to the natural history, ecology and conservation of solitary bees, together with an easy-to-use key to genera.

 

The Solitary Bees: Biology, Evolution, Conservation Hardback | September 2019| £27.99 £34.99                           The most up-to-date and authoritative resource on the biology and evolution of solitary bees.

 

 

Handbook of the Bees of the British Isles (2-Volume Set) Hardback | October 2018| £130 £150

With photographic material of over 270 bee species, this comprehensive handbook is a once-in-a-generation identification work to the British bee fauna.

 

Field Guide to the Bees of Great Britain and Ireland Paperback | December 2018| £27.99 £34.99

A comprehensive introduction to bee classification, ecology, field techniques and recording, a full glossary, and information on how to separate the sexes and distinguish bees from other insects is also included.

 

Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of Bees                Paperback | April 2019| £9.99 

Award-winning author, Thor Hanson takes us on a journey that begins 125 million years ago, when a wasp first dared to feed pollen to its young.

 

In order to increase awareness of how vital a role our solitary bees play in pollination, the first week of July has been designated as Solitary Bee Week. You can get involved by pledging to create nesting sites or plant food sources for bees, writing poetry or recording bee sightings.

 

New bird, bat and bee boxes for 2019

Providing nesting and roosting spaces for our wildlife is increasingly important as natural habitats and nest spaces are diminishing. Luckily, with the huge range available today, boxes for birds, bats and even bees can be sited almost anywhere from a tree in your garden, to within the walls of a new building and even free-standing. Below we will take a look at some of our newest bird, bat and bee boxes and what they can be used for.

introducing the Integrated Boxes by Green & Blue

The Bat Block

Green & Blue have just released two brand new products ready for this Spring.  Designed to be simple and easy to fit within the framework of new builds, the new Swift block and Bat block are sleek and made from recycled materials from the Cornish china clay industry. Both are standard UK block size and have slightly protruding entrances.

The Swift Block

Green & Blue BestSellers

As well as their new swift and bat boxes, Green & Blue also sell a range of blocks for bees. The blocks are made of 75% waste materials from the Cornish china clay industry and features small holes that appeal to a range of solitary bee species. The blocks range from small, brick-shaped blocks that can be built into walls or buildings, to large, stylish posts reaching 2.3m high, to plant pots that have space for you to plant bee-friendly flowers next to the solitary bee nesting holes.

New additions to the Eco Range

The ‘Eco’ range of boxes has recently expanded to feature a new Eco Bat Shelter and an Eco Tawny Owl Nest Box. These boxes are made of recycled plastic and the bat shelter comes in both a standard black and a brick-red colour. The bat shelter features a ceramic insert that helps to stabilize the internal temperature and is self-cleaning. The tawny owl nest box contains an FSC certified wooden nesting chamber which features built-in drainage holes meaning maintenance can be kept to a minimum. 

Aside from the new bat shelter and Tawny Owl nest box, the Eco range also includes a variety of boxes to cater for a wide range of bat and bird species. All of which are made from 100% recycled plastic and FSC certified wood and wood composite internal chambers. Click the images below to find out more.

Eco Range Bestsellers

Eco Barn Owl Nest Box
Eco Kent Bat Box
Eco Robin Nest Box
Eco Sparrow Tower

Integrated Habibat 003 Blended Box

The Habibat 003 is based upon the original Habibat box but features a blended facing to allow it to fit more seamlessly in building where the brickwork is built using stretcher/blended bond. The box provides the same internal roost space with insulating concrete and comes in a choice of three popular colours: smooth blue, smooth red or buff. If you have a more specific brick requirement or would like the box to match exactly your batch of bricks, the 003 is available with a custom facing where you can send your own bricks to be used or provide your brick code for the manufacturers to use on your box.

more information

If you would like some more advice on choosing bird or bat boxes, take a look at our previous blogs listed below or contact us via email at customer.services@nhbs.com or phone on 01803 865913.

Best Bird Boxes for Different Species 

Top 10 Bat Boxes for New Builds and Developments

Top 10 Bird Boxes for New Builds and Developments   

Top 10 Bat Boxes for Walls and Fences

Top 10 Bird Boxes for Walls and Fences

Top 10 Bat Boxes for Trees and Woodland  

Top 10 Bird Boxes for Trees and Woodland

The Importance of Nest Sites for Birds and Bees

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