5 things you need to know about solitary bees.
Solitary bees are different from honey bees and bumble bees.
Solitary bees are not simply bees who have left the hive and are now alone. There are over 200 species of solitary bee and, as the name suggests, they live alone, although in truth they often nest close to one another. They do not produce honey or wax.
They are responsible for around a third of all food we eat.
Solitary bees carry out a vital role in pollinating our crops, and also flowers and trees. In some parts of China pollination is already being undertaken using paintbrushes because there are no bees left to do it naturally. We used to think that honey bees were the biggest contributors to crop pollination but that simply isn’t the case today, all types of bees are important.
They are non-aggressive.
Because solitary bees do not have a store of honey to protect they are non aggressive, meaning they are safe around pets and children. The males generally have no sting and the females will only sting if handled roughly or trod on. Perfect therefore to encourage into your garden or allotment or new build development.
They have a short, but busy, life cycle.
Generally (across the species) solitary bees emerge from their nests in the spring. Males emerge first and, after feeding, they hang around the nest waiting for the females. Once mating is complete the males die fairly quickly, what a life! After mating the females will begin the process of nesting, selecting a suitable site, constructing the nest and laying anything between 1 and 20 eggs. The female eggs will be at the back of the nest and the males at the front. The eggs will hatch into larvae, which feed on pollen and nectar that the female has stored within each nest. The larvae develop and pupate, emerging the following spring and repeating the cycle.
Their habitat is under increasing threat.
There are many factors in declining solitary bee numbers, including increased use of chemicals in farming, less wildflower meadows and less suitable habitat. As fields become bigger we lose more hedgerows, which used to provide ample homes to a wide range of wildlife. Also as we build more and more properties and landscape our gardens we unwittingly destroy habitat and nests as we do so. We developed the bee brick as a means of increasing consideration for the habitat of solitary bees, by creating a possible nesting site for them in each new development, garden or wall.