There are more species of bees that live in solitary than in bee hives. These solitary bees are very friendly and are just as important if not more to the food chain as bumblebees and honeybees are. Solitary bees have no hive to defend or queen to protect, they are not aggressive and DO NOT sting.
In the UK alone there are around 250 different types of solitary bee including the mining bee, leafcutter bee, mason bee and several other species which can pollinate up to 85% more than a honey bee can. Whereas honey bees collect pollen on their pollen sacks located on the back legs, the solitary bees cover their entire bodies in pollen therefore spreading the pollen over a greater area and more flowers and vegetables.
Solitary bees are different from other bees such as bumble bees and honey bees because every female makes individual nest cells for her offspring. Some native bees nest on the ground but more than 30% are wood nesters. The female leaf cutter bee will look for pre-existing cavities such as hollow stems or holes in wood that are a perfect size to nest.
Within the nest the first 3 cells are females followed by males at the front, once the next season comes the males will emerge around a 1 week to 2 weeks before the females and they will just wait for the females to emerge and the cycle starts all over again.
The female makes hundreds of trips to nearby flowers to collect pollen and nectar which is then packed in to each of the nests before laying an egg on top of it. This will become the food source for her offspring once they have hatched the next season. It is on these trips that the female wild bee acts as a pollinator for plants and food crops – a vital part in the food chain.
Bees are the principal pollinators of flowering plants and play a fundamental role in food production. Without bees, many fruits, vegetables and other produce would not be produced and many wild flowers would disappear from the countryside.
Despite their crucial role in pollination, the bee population in the UK has declined massively over the last 50 years. One factor is the loss of many species of wildflowers in the countryside due to intensive farming methods and the use of insecticides.
Providing a wide variety of plants, shrubs and trees that flower at different times through the spring and summer is one of the best ways to help bees and other nectar feeding insects, providing them with a constant food supply of nectar and pollen.
An insect hotel is an ideal way to attract solitary bees, spiders, ladybirds and lacewings into your garden, providing the perfect habitat for these pollinators and pest controllers in the absence of natural nesting sites.
The ideal location for an insect hotel facing the morning sun but protected from the weather as solitary bees like the morning sunshine. This will ensure that they have enough heat but the wind or rain will not destroy the nest.
You should also position your insect hotel close to flowering herbs, wild flowers and native shrubs and trees to ensure the food needs of the insects are satisfied.
Countrywide have a wide range of tried and tested insect hotels for you to choose from, providing the perfect habitat for solitary bees, spiders, ladybirds and lacewings.