Monday, 2 November 2009

How to Build a Bee Condo

One day last summer I noticed something strange. In one corner of our tiny urban garden there's an old brick wall - an ugly old wall that probably needs fixing. In fact the mortar has gone in some places, and in one particular spot I saw a bee crawling into a hole. It looked like a honey bee but it was carrying a piece of leaf, a neatly cut piece shaped like a shield; dragging this leaf-shield it disappeared into the hole in the wall.

Not wanting to cause a panic I kept quiet about this. One bee wasn't going to hurt anyone, I reasoned. Besides, the willow hedge on the other side of the garden was infested with wasps, which fed off the sticky sweet stuff produced by a colony of aphids. The wasps left us alone, and so did the bees.

I forgot about them after that until, a couple of weeks ago, I met someone from the Global Bee Project at the farmer's market in town. They campaign on behalf of the thousands of species of wild bee that are declining along with many other insects, and they have a pleasingly simple approach. The needs of bees, as with other wild things, are not many.

Bees need food, which comes from flowers.

Bees need shelter, usually a hole in the wall or in the branch of a tree, or in the ground.

Bees need not to be poisoned. Insecticides aren't very good for bees.

The project's website offers tips on what to plant and also gives instructions on how to build a bee condo. Unfortunately our modern love of neatness means that insects and birds lack places to hide away or nest, but instead we can put up nesting boxes for blue tits and bee condos for bees. Have a look. They're pretty nifty.

My mystery bee, incidentally, was a leafcutter. Info and pics here.

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