Now that the days are somewhat sunnier in Swansea, we are seeing a boom of bees seeking out pollen amongst the pretty flowers on verges and in gardens. But are you familiar with the types of bees we are likely to see around Swansea? There are 24 different types of bumblebees alone in the UK but there are many more species of bees that also seek out plants during the warmer spells
- White-tailed Bumblebees
These are probably the most common species we are likely to see in our gardens. They are easily identified by their bright yellow collar. Their yellow abdominal band and bright fluffy white tail means they can be confused with buff-tailed bumblebees which have a browner collar and an orange-like tail.
- Red-tailed Bumblebees
These females are all black with a blood orange coloured tail, whereas the males have a yellow-haired head and collar. This species can be seen almost everywhere but are primarily found in areas were buddleia and thistles are found.
Unlike bumblebees, there’s only one species of honeybee in the UK. Honeybees are the species that produce our honey and can be found in colonies of up to 20,000 individuals. They can be seen feeding on open flowers without steep pollen stems as they have short tongues.
If you wonder why sometimes brick walls seem to be moving in front of your eyes, it is because more often than not, mason bees like to nest in hollow stems in walls and in wooded stems such as on some bee homes. They’re extremely fluffy looking and can be easily identified by their box shaped heads and large jaws.
- Mining Bees
Ever seen small volcano like holes in your garden? It is the classic tell-tale-sign of mining bees! There are several species of mining bee but the most common in our UK gardens are the tawny or ashy, the tawny being the larger of the two.
Despite there being many species of bee, 35 species are under threat of extinction and every species is currently facing decline. Since 1900 the UK has lost 13 species of bee. It’s not just honey that bees provide us with, bees are essential to the production of everyday foods such as fruits and vegetables and are crucial to our economy – without them the UK farmers would spend £1.8 billion a year to pollinate crops by themselves or using machinery! The bee decline has also been brought on by a change in land use from agricultural to buildings, resulting in habitat loss. Diseases, pollution and pesticides are also causing the decline.
So how can we help bees?
It seems like a huge mission for one person to try and save bees, but if everyone does some simple things then councils and others will join the cause.
Give these a go:
Plant some bee friendly flowers in your garden: we all love to look at beautiful flowers, so perhaps consider planting some varieties that have heavy pollen in them and can help our bees.
Look at what you are buying: check that your food is clear of neonictinoids, which are a huge cause to the decline of bees, also check the pesticides in your food.
Buy local honey: most honey is mass produced, but you can support local farmers by buying their honey and jams, it’s a win for wildlife and a win for local businesses, there are some amazing local markets, producers and food fairs that happen throughout Swansea.
Be a community for bees: if you want to really join forces and save bees, tell your local councillor that you want to add some wildflowers to your area, be it in pots or in the verges and parks.
If you’ve enjoyed reading about bees in this article, you will love The Bee Book by Jo Byrne and Jane Ross. Published by Graffeg this little book offers a unique insight into this most fascinating of creatures, from the mystery of the hive; the power of the queen; and the many appearances of bees in folklore, literature and art.
The Bee Book is the fifth of Graffeg’s Nature Books and already comprises volumes on some of Britain’s best-loved animals, including: hares, foxes, owls and red squirrels. Although bees are the smallest creatures in the series so far, they might be the ones that will surprise you the most.
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