For the last two years, I’ve been one of a number of people studying entomology as part of the Invertebrate Challenge Project at Preston Montford Field Studies Centre near Shrewsbury. The project is split up into groups of people studying different groups of invertebrates – and the group we’ve been looking at in our group is Aculeate Hymenoptera (Bees, Wasps and Ants). Last year our group decided to build a giant, free-standing bee hotel in the grounds of our beloved Preston Montford. To give credit where credit was due, I had absolutley nothing to do with the construction of it – but I will be adding in my own ‘apartment block’ later this year. Today however, I had the opportunity to visit it for the first time!
Solitary bees and wasps require little more than some hollow tubes or holes to nest in and these have been provided in a variety of sizes using bamboo sections florists sponge with holes of various diameters created in it and pieces of wood with holes drilled into it. Different species of bees and wasps like different conditions (aspect, temperature and size of hole).
You can create your own bee hotel on a smaller scale by using sections of bamboo, hogweed stems or even as a way to use Japanese Knotweed positively! – Any hollow-stemmed plant will do. You just need to bind them together – or place them inside a larger structure (a plant pot, wooden box, old bird nest box – anything that takes your fancy!).
And with just a bit of luck you may find that you have one or more of these beautiful ladies taking up residence in your hotel – Megachile or Leaf-cutter bees! They collect sections of leaves out of which they construct the cells in their nest, provisioning each one with a store of pollen before laying an egg and sealing it up. We saw several species of bees and wasps on and near the hotel today, and watched Megachile & Hylaeus bees enter holes. Considering the atrocious weather today – it was really busy at the bee hotel!
As you can see, there’s still loads of space to fill in the hotel – and I’m really excited to make my contribution this autumn! … So here it is in all its glory…