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Bees visit flowers to collect nectar and pollen, which they use as food for themselves and the larvae in their hives or nests. By moving from flower to flower, they are vital pollinators of many garden and wild flowers. Insect pollination which can be carried out by any insect that visits flowers including many flies, beetles, butterflies and moths is essential for the cropping of most fruits and some vegetables.
Bees are insects in the order Hymenoptera. There over 250 species in Britain and they can generally be divided into three groups.
There have been about 26 species recorded in Britain, but some are now extinct or have a very restricted distribution. At peak strength in mid-summer, a bumblebee nest will have no more than 100-200 bees.
There are about 260 species of solitary bee in Britain.
This is a social bee that lives in colonies of up to 60,000 and is the insect that produces honey. Most colonies are maintained by beekeepers.
The best ways to encourage bees of all types into you garden is by providing nectar and pollen rich flowers throughout the year and encouraging them to nest in your garden.
Due to the rich diversity of plants growing in Britain’s gardens, these outside spaces, and the gardeners who tend them, are critical to support a wide range of pollinators. There are often more pollinators in our nation’s gardens than in surrounding agricultural land.There is though always space for more pollinators in our gardens. Here’s how you can do more to support pollinators in your garden, outside space or community.1. Nectar and pollen rich plants are crucial to support our pollinators; RHS research shows that to attract the maximum numbers of pollinators gardens and other ornamental plantings should be crammed with a range of flowering plants. A wide range of such plants can be found in the RHS Plants for Pollinators lists2. Avoid using pesticides wherever possible, never spray open flowers and always read and follow label instructions. Preventing and reducing pests and diseases by good cultivation, cultivar selection, garden hygiene and using biological control should always be the first line of control. If pesticides are used consider using short persistent organic products. Accepting the presence of some pests can provide larval food for pollinators, for example aphids are food for some hoverfly larvae.3. Provide nest sites for bees; either make your own or you can purchase nests for solitary bees. Some solitary bees nest in the ground, either in bare soil or short turf. They will find their own nest sites, so tolerate the small mounds of soil deposited by the female bees when they excavate their nest tunnels. Purpose built bumblebee nest boxes often go unused. Instead bumblebees often prefer to nest in holes in the ground, for example under hedges with plants along the base. One species, the tree bumblebee often uses bird nest boxes.4. Provide water for pollinators: Bees and other pollinators sometimes need to drink; having a shallow margin of a pond or a shallow dish filled with stones or marbles filled with water will provide a safe source of water.5. Become a beekeeper: Details of county beekeepers associations and training courses can be found at The British Beekeepers Association.
Check out our "Helping our bees" blog.
The Blooms for Bees project is a citizen science project to promote and improve gardening for bumblebees. Help explore which bumblebee species visit gardens and allotments, and discover which flowers are bumblebee favourites. The project is HLF funded project led by Coventry University, with the RHS, Bumblebee Conservation Trust and Garden Organic as partners.
Getting stung by bees in your garden is unlikely, as long as you treat bees with respect.
All female bees have stings, but solitary bees are not at all aggressive and only using their stings in self-defence if roughly handled.
Similarly bumblebees and honeybees are unlikely to sting while they are going about their business of collecting nectar and pollen if they are left alone. Avoid disturbing bumblebee nests or standing too close to a bee hive unless you are wearing a beekeeper’s suit.
Bats: encouraging into your gardenBees Needs: Defra initiativeBirds: encouraging into your gardenBumblebee Conservation TrustButterflies: encouraging into your gardenHelping our bees video and blogHow gardeners can help our declining bees and other pollinatorsLeaf cutting beesMoths: encouraging into your gardenMake a bee hotelNational Pollinator StrategyNative or non-native: planting for pollinatorsPollinators: decline in numbersRHS Plants for Pollinator plant listsRHS Plants for Bugs research: pollinator findings The British Beekeepers' associationWasps (social) and hornetsWild About Gardens
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