Our School Grounds: Feeding and Nesting Habitat for Bees


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Our school grounds

Creating feeding and nesting habitat for bees

This resource aims to briefly outline how you can support bees in your grounds developments by providing nesting and feeding habitat for them. There are around 250 species of bee in Britain. They can be split in to two distinct categories. The bumblebees (of which there are 24 species) and the solitary bees.

Our bees emerge (from hibernation) at different times of year from early Spring all the way through to August.

To support our bees we need to provide shelter (nesting habitat) and food (flowers) from early February till late September.

Our bees range from 4mm to 2cm in size, some with long tongues and some with short tongues.  Some feed only on a small range of flowers – others will feed on anything (generalists).

The plants, meadows, hedges and trees we plant and cultivate need to reflect their needs! We need to ensure they have food throughout the year with a range of flower types and sizes!

Bumblebees

There are 24 species of bumblebee in the UK – this includes the carder bees.

Bumblebees and flower bees use their long tongues to access ‘tube-like’ flowers.

Food – Foraging for nectar and pollen

Most bumblebees are ‘generalists’ and will visit any flowers near to their nests.

Sources of pollen and nectar need to be available from February – September.

The buff-tailed bumblebee  can be active all year round!

Early bumblebee is seen from March – May

Use our plants guide to help you decide what to grow. Hedgerows and trees can also provide key sources of food throughout this time.

Shelter and nesting:

All bumblebees (including the Carder bees) have Queens that lay eggs and produce nests with worker bees – they are social bees (like honey bees).

Most bumblebees nest under the ground in cavities (under buildings)  or in old rodent tunnels.

The tree bumblebee is the exception nesting in tree cavities.

Carder bees (of which there are 4 species) nest in long grass weaving a nest in tussocks , collecting moss and other material to insulate the nest.

Creating bee banks can provide additional space for bumblebees to nest.

For more information on Bumblebees – identifying them & supporting their needs see our partners webpage – The Bumblebee Conservation Trust here

Solitary Bees

There are over 220 species of Solitary bee in the UK – they are some of our most important pollinators.  Read on to find out how you can support them.

A range of solitary bees (from one community garden) feeding on ‘open flowers’

Food – Foraging for nectar and pollen

Solitary bees emerge at different times throughout the year to make use of the forage available – they generally visit plants with smaller flowers or open flower heads.  Try planting a variety of species to see if you can have flowers in your school grounds in to September.

To find out more about specific solitary bees and their needs see this page from the Wildlife Trust

For fact sheets on our different solitary bees see the BWARS website here

Shelter and nesting

Each solitary bee is her own queen – foraging alone and laying individual eggs in her chosen location.  Quite a few of the solitary bees will nest alongside each other in ‘aggregations’ but will not be working together.

Solitary bees make small nests in all sorts of places including snail shells and bramble stems!

Improvements to support nesting habitat for solitary bee populations include:

Leaving sunny patches of bare ground (loose soil or sand)

Providing wood at a variety of heights (sunny locations)

  • Old tree stumps
  • Artificial homes
  • Drilled wooden boards/fence posts

Other solitary bee species use cavities in walls to make their nests.

Hairy Footed Flower Bee (Feb – May) feeding on Cowslip

Tawny Mining Bee (March – June) on Hawthorn

Chocolate Mining Bee (Mar – Jul) at Newlyn Primary