Bees provide us with every third mouthful of food we eat - it is estimated that 84% of all crops and 80% of wildflowers depend on insect pollination. It’s no secret however that many pollinators are facing threats; the loss of habitat and the use of chemicals have been linked to declining numbers. This is bad news but there are ways to help them with foraging and overwintering opportunities.
The queen bumblebee emerges from hibernation in the spring, having spent the winter tucked away under the soil or nestled within deadwood. Once she has found a nest site, she starts a colony of bees by laying eggs, which hatch to become the first worker bees in the colony. These bees will look after the young bees and will protect the nest. Later on, males emerge to mate with the new ‘queens to be’. These new queens go into hibernation for the next year.
Solitary bees however are heroes of the pollinator world. There are over 200 species in the UK. Unlike bumblebees and other social bees, each female makes her own nest with no workers. Once they mate, the females go it alone without any help.
Early spring to late autumn is the busiest feeding time for bees, but some winter-flowering plants can provide forage in areas where some species remain active throughout the year. It is crucial to provide other habitats which help bees survive the cold winter months.
Take action for insects, and provide more space for wildlife:
· Create refuge areas for bees and other pollinators by leaving undisturbed piles of deadwood or bare soil. You can also build homes using a collection of old sticks or canes tied in a bundle and placed in and around trees or fences.
· Provide a variety of long and short grass for different species, and leave some areas unmown throughout the year to provide shelter overwinter.
· Grow your own wildflower meadow – banks of native wildflowers look sublime and provide an importance source of nectar throughout the summer
· Phase out the use of pesticides where possible, as these are often indiscriminate in the insects they kill. Instead, encourage natural predators or look at companion planting. Log and compost piles are great for beetles.