By now you should have already placed your bee brick out in the garden or allotment. After a long winter the first early bees emerge in March, as the sun starts to warm up.
The male bees emerge first and spend their time feeding on nectar at nearby flowers and waiting for the females to emerge.
There is fierce competition when the females do finally emerge, they only mate once and so the males jostle for position to be the chosen one. The females first priority is food which is why it’s great to consider bee friendly planting alongside the bee brick, meaning they don’t have to travel too far.
After mating the males groom and then go off in search of more virgin females whilst the females begin searching for the perfect nest site. The male bees only live for about 3-4 weeks, all that mating and feeding takes it out of you!
The female will go through a process of thorough inspection when selecting a nesting site, it’s an important business after all. Firstly she will clear the site and then she will spend some time there, ensuring it is right. After learning her surroundings (we’ll tell you more about that in another post!), the work of provisioning the nest begins. (We’ll tell you more about that in another post too!
The cavities within our bee brick are designed to appeal to various types of solitary bees, there are well over 250 species. In particular they will appeal to the leaf cutter and the red mason bees. A female may make up to five nests in her short life, using the various cavities of the brick.
Female bees don’t tend to survive past June/July. The eggs that they have laid in their nests however hatch into tiny larvae which feed on the pollen that the female bee has created their nest with.
The larvae alternate between feeding and shedding their skin until, around August/September time, they spin their cocoons and enter the pupil stage. The bees become adult at around this time and remain in their cocoons until the following Spring, when the cycle begins again. What a life!
Solitary bees don’t like to travel too far to find a nesting site and quite often will reuse an old site, taking time to painstakingly clear it out. You should find that once your bee brick or block has been discovered and used it should continue to be year on year. Consider ways you can make life easier for the bees such as planting rich sources of nectar near the bricks, keeping the entrance cavities clear of vegetation and ensuring they are positioned in a south facing, warm sunny spot. When you’re certain the cavities are between occupation you could also help by giving them a clear out using a pipe cleaner, but make sure there’s definitely nobody home!