Stout bodies, black and yellow fuzz and an industrious hum are the key characteristics of one of our most charismatic and well-known insects, the bumblebee.

 

Our bees need your help!

Derbyshire Wildlife Trust aims to raise £50,000 to help the bees. Get your Buzz Box and make a difference today!

Bees, beautiful bees

In the UK there are around 270 species of bee, of which 24 are bumblebees. Only a small number of bumblebee species are commonly found in our gardens, while many are found in specific habitats such as on moorland or coastal areas.

The gentle buzz of a bee has always been a signal of summer

 

With two species of bee already lost to us, we need to act

They are social insects, living in colonies which can reach several hundred. They consist of fertile females, known as queens, and workers, sterile females whose role is to gather nectar and pollen to feed the grubs which are reared in wax cells in the nest. Male bumblebees and next year’s queens are produced later in the summer.

In addition to bumblebees, there are more than 200 species of solitary bee. They are generally not social insects – a female makes her nest without the help of workers.

However, nests are often found close to each other in suitable habitat. In this huge group of species, there are some that resemble small honeybees while others look like small bumblebees or wasps.

There is also one species of honeybee in the UK. They live in colonies that can number tens of thousands. The queen spends most of her life inside the hive, only venturing out for mating flights at the beginning of her adult life and later if she leaves the hive with a swarm to find a new colony.

What’s happened?

Both our bumblebees and honey bees are in serious decline and two species have already been lost.

One problem is loss of habitat, and therefore food, as 97% of our flower rich grassland has gone since the 1930s due to changes in land use. Rarely can you find a meadow full of wild flowers and alive with bees and butterflies, once common.

Honey bees are suffering due to the Varroa mite which causes colonies to collapse and pesticide use has affected all bees by entering the food chain.

Added to these threats is that posed by certain neonicotinoid pesticides. These are frequently used as a seed treatment and remain in the plants, travelling into the nectar and pollen. Research has found that exposure to neonicotinoids may disrupt bees’ ability to gather pollen, return to their hives and reproduce.

How can you help our bees? 

  • One way in which we can help is by planting bee-friendly plants in the garden. Suitable plants include betony, buddleia, chives, honeysuckle, scabious, heather and lavender. There are also special bee-friendly seed mixes available to buy.
  • To help solitary bees, you could make a bee hotel, an artificial nest for them. These can be made quite simply from a few hollow stems or bamboo canes tied into a bundle and hung in a sunny spot in the garden. More elaborate versions can be made or purchased from a garden centre or online.

 

Why the urgency?

If we don’t act now to help our bees our gardens and meadows will be silent, our farms barren and our very future at risk.

We can all make some simple changes that will have a massive difference – donate now to help Derbyshire Wildlife Trust help the bees.

  

Make a bee box

 

Image credits, Red tailed bumblebee (c) Jon Hawkins, Surrey Hill Photography, Early bumblebee (c) Jon Hawkins, Surrey Hill Photography, Mining bee (c) Kieron Huston, Bee (c) Kieron Huston, bee (c) Jon Hawksin, Surrey Hill Photography, Bee at Duffield LNR (c) Mike, Via Flickr, Honeybee worker (c) Kieron Huston 

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