Getting Buzzy about Bees

Common carder bumblebee on verbenum by Nick Upton/2020VISION

Ryan Clark, Northamptonshire County Recorder for bees, wasps and ants, tells us why we should all take more notice of bees

Everyone knows about the honey bee that has huge hives and produces honey, but what about Britain’s wild bees? In Britain we have more than 270 species of bee, these range from tiny black species, to large colourful mining bees and bumblebees. These are arguably more important than honey bees and are essential pollinators for our wildflowers and crops. They are found in a wide variety of flower rich habitats including woodlands, grasslands and urban areas. Gardens and local greenspaces are great areas for bees and make ideal places to go for a bee hunt. While many bee species cannot be identified conclusively from photos, many of the species found in gardens can be identified from a series of photos.

Bees lead complex and diverse lives: bumblebees live in colonies with a queen and several workers - the number of workers can range from a dozen to several hundreds. Males and new queens are produced at the end of the nest cycle. Most solitary bees nest alone but some share nest entrances. The female collects pollen and nectar and uses this to provision her nest which can be in the ground or aerially. The range of plants that bees collect pollen from is also remarkably diverse. Some species are specialists, reliant on a small range of plant species, whereas others are generalists and collect pollen from a wide range of plants. A quarter of bee species in Britain are cuckoo bees, these do not collect their own pollen but instead lay their eggs in the nests of other bee species. This includes some solitary bee species, which can look remarkably wasp like, and some cuckoo bumblebee species. 

bees

Britains bees are highly diverse and beautiful

From the 29 June to 12 July on our Monitoring and Research Facebook group page we will be posting about bees, and encouraging you to do the same #wildlifefromhome

Ryan Clark has put together a guide (see below) to get started identifying bees in gardens or local greenspace - he will be on hand to help identify sightings.

An Introduction to British Garden Bee Identification

Links to how to record your sightings