Looking after Wild Bees

Despite the awful weather the wild spring bees will soon be emerging. The bird cherry tree in the garden is in full and exuberant bloom, just waiting for them.


The bird cherry in full bloom

Last year I bought a small but beautiful solitary bee house from George Pilkington  at Nurturing Nature.His site is FULL of info about bees and really fascinating.
I have had bee/insect houses before which have been filled enthusiastically but this small beautifully made structure not only has apertures the right size for the bees, but allows you to see what is happening through removable sides. The internal nest box unit is removable which enables you to extract the cells and overwinter them indoors to protect them from pests.

The bee house now cleaned up and re-positioned ready for spring

In one short season mason bees, lots and  lots of leafcutters and joy of joys a couple of woolcarders made use of it.

The removable nest section.

I am endlessly admiring of the diligence, care and expertise these bees demonstrate in making safe homes for their offspring. Each cell so beautifully built, provisioned with bee bread for the lava to eat and carefully sealed before the next one is made.

Leafcutter nests, furry woolcarder cocoons and mason bee cells.

The mason bees’ mud walled sections are very strong ( we have heavy clay here). Now filled with small brown cocoons.

The leafcutters make extra seals at the beginning and the end of each row with tiny circles and folds of leaves. I had watched them in the summer coming backwards and forwards with the leaves neatly folded and pushing them into the tubes.


An extra leaf seal from the exit to the tube, and the tiny leafy debris left after cleaning the unit.

The woolcarder makes a ball of hairs from the stachys (lambs ear) plants for each egg.  The female chews the hairs from the leaves and rolls them into a ball which she carries back to the nest. The stachys leaves look as though they have been rather badly shaved with a tiny razor.

Leafcutter tube at the top, woolcarder cocoons and two mason bee cocoons at the bottom

My little colony of wild bees, having been very gently removed and cleaned, are now ready to be placed in the release chamber.

Soon, soon spring will come !

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