Should I be wor­ried about bees?

Amateur Gardening - - Ask John Negus -

QBees have bur­rowed into the ground un­der the base of my plas­tic com­post bin. Should I be wor­ried that they are mak­ing a nest/hive? At first I was not wor­ried as I thought it was a ma­son bee, but now there are a small crowd buzzing in and out. Eileen Thur­low, via email

AAlthough there are lots of na­tive bee species, only honey bees and bum­ble bees live in colonies. It is most likely that the bees you have dis­cov­ered are bum­ble bees.

They live in fairly small colonies of just a few hun­dred work­ers, and most species breed in un­der­ground cav­i­ties. Be­cause they live in small nests, bum­ble bees never swarm and they do not pro­duce enough honey for com­mer­cial use, just a few grams to feed their young.

Not all bum­ble bees sting. Drones (the smaller male bees that hatch in mid­sum­mer) have no sting and bum­ble bees are less ag­gres­sive than honey bees.

Their nests thrive un­til the first frosts when the old queen, work­ers and drones die. Only the newly mated queens hi­ber­nate in dry places, ready to start a new nest the fol­low­ing spring.

Bum­ble bees have been in de­cline for a num­ber of years as a re­sult of changes to agri­cul­tural prac­tices and loss of undis­turbed flower-rich habi­tats.

Al­though it is in­con­ve­nient to have them nest­ing un­der your com­post heap, if you can live with them it will be good for the species and your gar­den.

I don’t think you need to avoid that area of the gar­den al­to­gether as the bees are not ag­gres­sive, but it might be best not to re­move com­post from the heap un­til the nest has gone.

They are fas­ci­nat­ing to watch as they come in and out of the nest and it is quite ther­a­peu­tic.

Bum­ble bees live in small nests and for­age in your gar­den Small gar­den bum­ble bee (Bom­bus hor­to­rum) work­ers at their nest on the ground

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