Did you know that the bumblebee queen overwinters underground, often in an
abandoned mouse hole? She has been busy preparing for the winter and has built up
her fat reserves feeding on plenty of sweet nectar. During the winter, if her body
temperature dips too low she can produce her own antifreeze, preventing her body
from freezing. After hibernation she emerges in the spring and finds a suitable nest –
usually beneath a hedgerow. Read more of this story on the website of “Dragonfli”
whose owner, Julian Ives came to talk to us at our last meeting.
It is vital to look after our bees – not just honey bees but also bumblebees, solitary
bees, leaf cutter bees, red mason bees ……… . You may already have leaf cutter
bees if you find leaves with symmetrical cuts all around the edges – they particularly
like rose leaves. There are several hundred species of solitary bees and you can
encourage them by erecting a bee hotel on your garden wall or fence – look in the
garden centre now as from April onwards through to July the females will be looking
for a nest.
You will have all seen the bee hotels which are bundles of tubes of different sizes –
these can easily be made at home. Different sizes attract different species. The queen
lays female eggs at the back and male ones at the front so that an inquisitive
woodpecker only eats the less important gender! Pollen/nectar is put next to each egg
for the emerging baby bee to eat and once the tube is full the entrance is blocked up
with whatever suitable material is around. Observant gardeners may be lucky enough
to see the emerging baby bees flying away from their hotel.
Of course you need to grow the right plants to attract the bees – check the labels before
purchase as plant growers are realising that gardeners are getting more
knowledgeable and discerning.
There are twenty four species of bumblebees in the UK, they visit more flowers than
the honey bee and can carry heavier loads of pollen allowing longer periods for
foraging. Tree bumblebees are becoming more widespread – you may find them in
trees, old nest boxes and roof spaces.
A fascinating talk – three cheers for the bees!