How you can help solitary bees

Discover how you can help solitary bees and make your garden a haven for these important pollinators. 

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Mining bee

1 LEAVE IVY ON TREES AND WALLS 

Don’t be tempted to trim ivy in the name of tidiness. In autumn ivy flowers are a key resource for ivy bees, as well as for late-season hoverflies and butterflies.

2 MOW A PATCH OF YOUR LAWN

Maintain mown patches of lawn in sunny spots, and consider leaving bare patches of earth in full sun, so that ground-nesting bees have somewhere to make their nest.

3 PROVIDE A MUD PLATTER

In dry conditions, leave out a dish of mud for mason bees to use in sealing their nest cells. Keep this topped up during the flight period. For example, red mason bees fly from March to late May.

4 PUT UP A NESTBOX

Buy a nestbox or ‘bee hotel’ for the garden. Or, as a great family activity, make your own. Fill a box or plastic bottle with hollow plant stems (bamboo, sunflower or teasel are ideal) cut to size. The hole diameter needs to be 2–10mm to attract a wide range of species. Place in full sun 1–2m off the ground, and keep it dry in winter.

5 LEARN HOW TO IDENTIFY BEES 

Arm yourself with a decent field guide, a close-focusing camera and a notebook, and familiarise yourself with common species before learning how to identify rarer ones. Visit www.bwars.com to record your sightings

6 GROW THE RIGHT PLANTS

To attract leafcutter bees, for instance, grow roses, wisteria, beech and birch, because the bees use their leaves to seal nests. To help wool carder bees, grow lamb’s ear. 

7 THINK OF THE FLOWERS 

Grow a range of plants that flower from spring to autumn, including spring-flowering
fruit trees such as apple, cherry and pear (the tawny mining bee visits all three) and autumn-flowering ivy.

Discover more about the diversity of solitary bees in the September 2015 issue of BBC Wildlife

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