Solitary Bee Boxes

What are Solitary Bees ?

As well as Bumblebees and Honey bees (that live socially) there are over 240 species of wild bees in the UK that are called 'solitary bees' because they make individual nest cells for their larvae. Most species nest in small tunnels or holes in the ground or in sandy banks, piles of sand, or crumbling mortar or sparse starved lawns. You can leave areas of bare soil or gravel in your garden for these.

Others use the hollow stems of dead plants such as brambles, or tunnels previously bored into dead wood by beetles. A number of species of small solitary wasps share a similar lifestyle. Harmless to us, they are predators of small insects. 

Although they are known as solitary bees, some species will group their nest cells together in aggregations, and a few have evolved social behaviour rather like bumblebees. Many solitary bees are very small and you may not have realised they are bees. All collect nectar and pollen from flowers, except the so-called 'cuckoo' species that lay their eggs in the nest cells of other species.

Solitary bees are harmless and not aggressive. They rarely if ever sting and they don't have painful stings like honeybees. In most cases if they attempt to sting, you will not even feel it. They do not live in hives, make honey, build honeycombs, or swarm.

If you find them (for example in old house walls) please leave them alone. Colonies are very faithful to their nest sites and may have been living there for many decades. They are part of the 'fine grain' of your local biodiversity—something to be cherished.

A number of the species that are commonly seen in gardens, such as Red Mason and Leafcutter Bees, nest in tubes or tunnels. They are very useful as they pollinate fruit crops. Gardeners can easily encourage these bees by proving artificial nest sites, by drilling holes in dry logs or blocks of wood.

When used, Bee Boxes are the bee's permanent home for eleven months of its short life as it develops from an egg through a larval stage, then as a dormant pupa, and finally emerges as an adult.