BEES IN THE UK

Landscape (UK) - - Our LandScape -

When Brigit first be­came aware of the de­cline in bees more than a decade ago, she started learn­ing about them and was stunned at how many types there were: 267 species in the Bri­tish Isles alone. Bees col­lect flower nec­tar and pollen for food, and as they visit each bloom, grains of pollen stick to the hairs on their bod­ies, which are then trans­ferred to other flow­ers, re­sult­ing in pol­li­na­tion. As well as hon­ey­bees, Brigit is very fond of the bum­ble­bees and soli­tary bees that flit around. There are 19 species of bum­ble­bee found in the UK and up to eight types which are com­monly seen in gar­dens, such as the buff-tailed bum­ble­bee, Bom­bus ter­restris, which is the largest and first to emerge, and Bom­bus lap­i­dar­ius, with its black body and bright or­ange tail. “You see the newly emerged queens in spring zigzag­ging low over the lawn look­ing for a nest site,” says Brigit. There are more than 225 types of soli­tary bees, which fend for them­selves and look af­ter their own young. Of these, Brigit par­tic­u­larly likes the wool-card­ing bee, which cards the hairs on the leaves of Stachys lanata, or lamb’s ears, to line its nest. Then there is the leaf-cut­ter bee, which lines its cell with lit­tle pieces of leaf, of­ten cut from roses or en­chanter’s night­shade, pro­vi­sions it with pollen and nec­tar, and lays up to 20 eggs within, block­ing each one off with a round piece of leaf and leav­ing them to hatch. Equally fas­ci­nat­ing, ma­son bees build their nests with mud and are of­ten found in crumbling mortar.

A leaf cut­ter bee at work. It grasps the cut­ting and car­ries it un­der its body to the nest (left). The hairy­footed bee has a quick dart­ing flight mo­tion. Fe­males are black in colour with or­ange hairs on the back legs (right).

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