Potty Gardening Club: Bees
Hello Potty Gardeners,
We hope you have been having a go at the club’s activities and keeping busy. Thinking of keeping busy, this week we are looking at one of the busiest visitors to your garden and one of the most important. The Bee!
You may be suprised to know there are over 270 species of bee in the UK in two different groups; social bees and solitary bees. Social bees, of which there are 26 species, are bees that live in a colony. A social bee colony has a queen, workers which are all female and drones, the males. With Social bees, the workers do everything; building cells for the queen to lay the eggs in, gathering pollen and nectar and making honey and wax for the hive in which there may 50,000 bees.
There are 250 species of solitary bee, they make their nests in hollow stem holes or in wood , soil, sand, or mortar. Solitary bees do not make honey or wax. The female works alone building the nest, one cell at a time in the tube hole then lays her egg on top of a pollen/nectar ball. Repeating this process until the hole is full, she then seals it with mud or leaves. She then flies off to find another nest site and starts all over again. She most certainly is the hardest working bee in the garden.
Food for solitary bees comes from wildflowers, hedge rows and flowering trees. The solitary bee is by far the best pollinator in the garden. They don’t have pollen baskets on their legs like social bees, so as they fly they lose much more pollen which falls onto other plants. You can see white pollen baskets on a bee’s legs in the picture below.
It’s been estimated that a single solitary bee can pollinate 120 more plants than a single honeybee. Now that’s amazing! As with all bees their habitats are under threat from human activity and the use of pesticides.
Solitary bees are a gardener’s friend. To try and attract solitary bees to your garden, you may like to make a simple bee house like mine pictured in these instruction [PDF]. Please BEE careful when you are using tools. Wear your gloves and ask an adult to help.
You could also have a go at helping Betty Bee find her way through our maze [PDF].
Written by Rob Gagliano, Casual Learning Development Leader and Natural Science Collections Volunteer