From Monday 29thJune, it’s Solitary Bee Week, an initiative to promote the awareness and importance of solitary bees in the UK. Leafcutter Bee: Nick Upton (rspb-images.com)
There is lots of information on the site about behaviour and species, plus how you can get involved with activities and events.
We have over 260 bee species in our country and 90% are solitary bees. It means that they do not reside in hives or large colonies with a queen bee in charge. The solitary bee is just that, a bee surviving on its own. Approximately 70% of them are “mining” bees that build a burrow underground and approximately 30” are “cavity” bees, the type that are attracted to holes in stems, wood and stone and bug hotels.
Through summer, eggs hatch into larvae and exist for between 5-10 weeks before turning into a pupa, the state they will remain through the winter until the following spring before they emerge as fully grown adult bees.
Male bees emerge first and feed on plant nectar until the females appear. Once the male has mated, it will die naturally leaving the female to take care of nesting duties. The cavity nesting solitary female will store collected pollen as food in each chamber she creates within the tube, then she will seal it at the end with mud or pieces of leaf. Amazingly, she has the ability to lay her female eggs and the back of her nest and male eggs at the front, so they are ready in the correct order for emergence following spring.
To identify what you may be looking at, the Woodland Trust has a simple online guide to many of our most common UK bees.
Solitary bees as well as many other pollinators are in decline due to changes like habitat loss, the use of pesticides and climate change, so anything we can do assist these invaluable and joyful insects is of great benefit to both them and us.
The RHS suggests plants for pollinators to grow and the RSPB recommends these plants that bees love plus a guide on how to build a bee hotel. There are also bee-related seed packs, bug hotels and guide books from the RSPB shop.
On Tuesday this week, it’s wear your stripes day in honour of our valuable solitary bees. If there are flowers in your garden or local wild space, they’re bound to be busying about out there during the sunny days this week, wearing and earning their stripes!
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