Solitary Bee Cam
Over the last few years, I have been building up a collection of solitary bee habitats on a sunny wall in a sheltered part of my patio. I have become increasingly interested in these fascinating insects and, each year, I have added, adapted and experimented with different bee habitats to try to create successful breeding chambers for them. I am by no means an expert and I am keen to learn more.
Cam currently moved to new location until the leaf cutter bees appear!
What are Solitary Bees?.....
Most species of bee in the UK are solitary and do not live in colonies like bumblebees or honeybees. They are very important pollinators, but tend not to be as well-known about as their social relatives. Some species nest below ground and others use habitats such as mine.
I was surprised at how little people knew about what happens inside the tubes of a solitary bee habitat, often known as a Bee 'Hotel'. These tubes are used for breeding. Females create individual 'cells' inside the stems using mud or leaves, into which they lay an egg. Each cell is then packed full of pollen, providing food for the larvae as it grows over the warm summer months. The offspring chew their way out of the nest and emerge as adults around April/May.These bees are totally safe to have in the garden as they do not sting. Many species do not even have a sting. These bees are highly efficient pollinators and we should all do our bit to encourage them into our gardens, as they are both fascinating to watch and a valuable part of your garden ecosystem.
I have created some videos to explain what happens inside these tubes and how you can make your own solitary bee 'hotel' of your own. I will be adding more content in the coming weeks. I will also be partnering up with Xavier McNally, who has produced the wonderful infographics you see at the bottom of the page. Xavier studied the effectiveness of bee hotels for attracting and sustaining populations of solitary bees for his MSc and he will be helping me with ID and monitoring of the footage we capture. All rather experimental, but worth a try!
What to watch for...
Red Mason Bee
Red Mason Bees use mud to create the cells inside the tube. Watch for them returning with balls of mud in their mandibles.
Red Mason Bees collect pollen on their abdomen in special hairs on the undersides of their abdomen, in a structure known as a pollen brush.Look out for a bright yellow abdomen, full of pollen.
These bees often turn around and reverse into the hole, to scrape the pollen off of the pollen brush.
Red Mason Bee
Learn more about Solitary Bees
Learn about what happens inside a solitary bee 'hotel'.
Why build your own Bee Habitat and what do you need?
How to make your own simple Bee 'hotel'
See some of my other homemade bee habitats
Visit my Bee Plaza
These great infographics have been produced by Xavier McNally. You can follow him on Twitter @air_beenbee