a helping hand

If you are a regular reader, you will know I have been posting recently about the bees that visit the garden. This year I am making a particular study of  bees as part of my ongoing investigation into the wildlife that shares my garden. In addition to the so-called Big Six bumblebees, a series of smaller bees have been visiting the flowers as they collect pollen or feed on nectar. The delightful little flower bees are still about -I saw a female in a sunny interval yesterday-but I have seen no mining bees for  days.

The most recent activity has been provided by the little red mason bees, another species I have lived a lifetime in ignorance of until this spring. Sigh. Osmia rufa, to title it biologically is another of the so called solitary bees, meaning that they don’t form colonies, but each female prepares for her own brood, making a nest, provisioning it with pollen and laying eggs. The term solitary is slightly misleading as many females may choose to live in close proximity.

Astonishingly effective pollinators, especially fond of fruit blossom, they seek out hollow stems or borings in wood or crumbling mortar to make their nests. I cannot believe the ones I photographed above have arrived for the first time this year, so I am looking out for where they may have been nesting last year, and from where they are emerging now. There must be effective nest sites in the garden, but this weekend I am going to make a bee hotel to provide them with easy to access accommodation.  My fruit blossom could do with all the help it can get this cold May, and a few minutes work seems a small price to pay for apples this autumn. There is a great post about how to do this at the RHS “Biodiversity and the garden” website here.

On Monday I will let you know how we got on and hopefully, if the sun really does shine this weekend and the temperature becomes spring-like, I will be able to find the nest of the beautiful red tailed bees I keep seeing too.

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4 thoughts on “a helping hand

  1. Thanks for the reminder, we have our bee hotel ready, but it needs to be sited. We still have very few bees all told, I’m worried.

    1. There are certainly fewer about than I would expect for mid May but I am hoping a warm spell will help them out this next week. There is plenty of nectar and pollen available so lets hope they can start to catch up. I am worried too-but determined to be of practical use where I can!

  2. Great that you are both putting out bee hotels – my tunnels and artificial habitats face East to catch the rising sun. Also make sure you have a variety of diameter tunnels in place – from 10mm down to 4mm; that way if you miss the fruit blossom Osmies, later on in the summer other smaller solitary bees will take a look. If you are lucky (and the inner tunnel walls are really smooth,) you may even get leaf-cutters – something I would love to see in my garden.
    However don’t get too worried about whether you see bees using the tunnels straight away… I am sure that one day in June you’ll glance at the hotel and you’ll notice a tunnel entrance blocked. Nature has a habit of getting on with things whilst our backs are turned.
    I believe that the third photo is of a male Osmia cornuta because of the white moustache. If it’s a recent shot you also are just entering the phase of female emergence so it means that your ‘hotel’ timing – after the delays of the colder weather in the UK – may just be perfect.

    Good luck, and I look forward to seeing the results.

    1. Thanks for your comment Paul. If it is Osmia cornuta it is a new bee for me. The picture was taken this week and I have watched many males patrolling the area near the “hotel “. I have pictures of a female collecting clay too but none are using the box yet. I am still hopeful.

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