A solitary life
The solitary bees in the UK, of which there are more than 200 species, are named such because, unlike honey bees and bumblebees, they do not live in colonies. The first of the solitary bees to appear is the miner bees, which are similar to honey bees in appearance, but they do not have any pollen baskets legs. They start to appear around March and they make their nests in the ground, usually sandy soil. The female will dig a nest, lay her eggs, and then fill it with pollen before sealing the youngsters in to fend for themselves. Later in the season the leaf-cutter bees appear, their modus operandi is to cut circles out of rose leaves and build their nests in old dormant places like stacks of wood or used potting shed debris. The leave-cutter bee does resemble the honey bee and can be distinguished from them by their bright orange pollen brushes under their abdomen.
Whatever species of solitary bee, they are all great pollinators in the garden and should be encouraged to stay. They rarely sting humans, all bee are in steep decline due to all sorts of climatic and environmental threats. The E.U recently announced a ban on pesticides containing neonicotinoids, which was quite controversial here in the UK because the Bumblebee conservation trust
were in favour of more testing before introducing such a ban. They say the decline in pollinating bee population is mainly down to lack of bee-friendly habitat. You can help by planting wild flowers and leaving areas to grow naturally. The honey bee depends entirely on flowers for food, so planting wild flowers helps them. They nest in dark quite places, in roof spaces, under sheds, shady corners of the garden, they prefer to avoid direct sunlight in order to maintain a constant temperature within the nest. Bumble bee nest typically can have a few hundred bees in them, in comparison a hive contains 50,000 bees, so Bumble bees nests are very small in comparison.
Two habitats for garden bees are shown below. click on the image to go to our product page for further information.
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Solitary bee hive