Interesting stuff about Bees
Bees, like ants, are really a form of specially adapted wasp.
They evolved about 150 million years ago (before this early
flowering plants like Magnolias were pollinated by beetles).
There are 20,000 bee species, found on every continent except
Antarctica. Bees are adapted for feeding on nectar and pollen, the
former primarily as an energy source and the latter primarily for
protein and other nutrients. Most pollen is used as food for
larvae. There are broadly speaking three main groups -
honeybees, bumblebees and solitary bees.
Bees are the only insect in the world that make food that people
Distinguished from other bees in their production of honey and
construction of perennial nests from wax. There are only
seven true honey bees worldwide.
In the Uk, honeybees are the semi domesticated European honeybee
that we keep in hives for their honey. Depictions of humans
collecting honey from wild bees date to 15,000 years ago; efforts
to domesticate them are shown in Egyptian art around 4,500 years
It wasn't until the 18th century that European understanding of
the colonies and biology of bees allowed the construction of the
moveable comb hive so that honey could be harvested without
destroying the entire colony. It would take 1,100 bees to make 1kg
of honey and they would have to visit 4 million flowers
Excellent pollinators, they are vital in gardens and
There are 25 species of bumblebee in the UK. Unfortunately
bumblebees are in decline in Europe, probably due to the
intensification of farming. Three species have gone extinct in the
UK in the past 30 years alone.
In the spring the queen will come out of hibernation and look
for a suitable home, to set up this years nest which will contain
at its height around fifty bees. The earliest species of
bumblebees can be seen in our gardens from February and the latest
through until November so its vital to have something in flower for
them to feed on.
There are more than 200 species of solitary bee in Britain. They
are so named because, unlike honeybees and bumblebees, they do not
live in colonies.
The first solitary bees to appear in the garden, as early as
March each year, are the miner bees. Similar to honeybees in
appearance, but generally smaller. They make nests in the ground,
usually in sandy soil and along paths. The female will dig the
nest, stock it with nectar and pollen and then seal it, leaving the
young to fend for themselves.
Also to be seen later on in the season are the leaf-cutter bees,
which cut neat circles out of rose leaves and petals to build nests
in dead plant stems or sometimes in stacks of old flowerpots.
All solitary bees are excellent pollinators and should be
encouraged into your garden.
Make your garden more bee friendly by planting a variety
of different flower shapes (not doubles) aiming for a continuous
succession from February to November and avoid using
pesticides. As simple as that!