We spend a lot of time worrying about honeybees, but many of our native bees go unnoticed. Most of us would recognise bumblebees, but lots of the c.250 species of solitary bee here might pass us by. And that's a shame. Not just because we have some very pretty and interesting solitary bees, but because they do a lot of useful pollination work. Many of them are in sharp decline, particularly those with particular feeding and nesting habits.
Some of the more obvious solitary bees are miners, but many nest in crevices or plant stems. Typically the female bee will lay an egg in a cell, which she provisions with pollen and/or nectar before blocking up with mud or leaves. She will start off with females and leave the males until the last cells available; they emerge first, and hang about waiting to jump the females when they appear (this is the only useful thing they do, by the way - the rest of their lives they spend footling about).
One of the reasons behind their decline seems to be shortage of nest sites, and - in sharp contrast to bumblebees - well sited artificial nesters do work well for them. Having said that, it has been difficult to find the right design and build for our orchard bee box.
Our Solitary Bee Nesters
The box is 20cm deep - much deeper than the kind of thing you'd find in a garden centre. This means more eggs and greater safety from predators and parasites like woodpeckers and the Ruby-tailed wasp.
The other differentiating features of our orchard box are its overall size - it's 60cm tall - and build quality. It's made by Green Earth Habitats in Peterborough, from sustainably produced UK timber. It's mostly made from cedar and has real weight to it - we're sure you' ll be impressed by the quality of GEH's work.
The nesting cavities in our orchard box are sited in removable trays and particularly designed for Mason bees, which are super efficent pollinators of fruit trees.
We supply it with an instruction sheet, which includes tips on siting and installation.
Supplier: Green Earth Habitats