Our group may have an unashamed love affair with honey bees, but we have come to realise they are part of so much more. They are, by dint of being generalists and by numbers, a really important pollinator insect, however they are not always the most effective for all plants. Bumble bees, solitary bees, hoverflies and moths are also important pollinators in decline. It is predicted that plant species diversity can be maintained until 70% of pollinator species are lost – provided the specialist pollinators are lost first. That’s a great deal to lose before there is a significant effect – and what happens if the generalist pollinators are then struck down by disease or similar? Catastrophe.
In short, to achieve the best possible survival for humans we need to maintain biodiversity.
This realisation has influenced our plants for bees project and saw us beginning the year by getting together to make bee and bug hotels.
We made some for ladybirds and lacewings by cutting the base off a large plastic bottle (lid on to keep the rain out) and stuffing rolled and crinkled cardboard into lengthways to form small tubes, nooks and crannies. They then get hung vertically in the garden.
For solitary bees we bundled together 15 or so canes of varying diameter cut to about 20cm’s long. Bees like them to be open at both ends.
A little about Solitary Bees
- There are over 260 species of bees in the UK
- Bumblebees and honey bees are the only social ones, living in nests together
- Some solitary bees live in communities or ‘aggregates’, with each female making herself a nest
- The Red Mason Bee is a great pollinator of Apple trees, it is estimated that one red mason bee can do the same amount of apple pollination as more than 100 honey bees
- The Blue Mason Bee is a pollinator for flowers, herbs and vegetables
- These mason bees nest in a hollow tube, each egg laid in a chamber with a pollen supply and sealed with a mud or chewed leaf cement. They remain there over winter and emerge the following spring. Amazingly they exit in the correct (reverse) order
- Solitary bees may act synergistically with honey bees to increase crop yields
- Solitary bees are either specialist or generalist pollinators