We're massive fans of Brigit Strawbridge here at Green&Blue, what she doesn't know about bees and pollinators isn't worth knowing! So we were delighted when she agreed to let us share this blog post she wrote, 'Some very basic information about bees'. It's a very useful guide to bees, in all their various guises! Enjoy. And you can follow Brigit's own blog here, or find her on twitter here. What's the first thing that springs to mind when you hear the word 'bee'? For many people this word conjures up images of beehives, honey, and people dressed in strange, white, masked outfits; i.e honeybee related images. Yet, if I gave the same people a box of coloured pencils and asked them to draw me a bee, most would probably draw something black, yellow and black striped in the shape of a rugby ball; basically something more akin to a bumblebee. So there is clearly a little confusion. [caption id="attachment_6279" align="aligncenter" width="320"] Andrena cineraria (Ashy mining bee)[/caption] I thought it might help if I wrote down some very basic information to help clear up some of this confusion.......... There are over 20,000 different species of bee in the world. 7 of these are honeybees. 250 are bumblebees The rest are solitary bees! Honeybees and bumblebees are 'social' bees - which means they live together in colonies comprising a queen, female workers, and males. There are tens of thousands of worker bees in a honeybee colony, but only around 50 - 400 in a bumblebee colony. All 'worker bees' are female. Solitary bees do not have queens or a worker caste, nor (with one or two exceptions) do they share their nests with other solitary bees. This is why they are called 'solitary'. They do, however, often nests alongside each other. [caption id="attachment_6277" align="aligncenter" width="320"] Megachile centuncularis (Patchwork leafcutter bee)[/caption] After mating, female solitary bees make nests. They do this either by excavating tunnels in the ground (ground nesting) or using pre-existing cavities in walls, trees, plant stems etc (cavity nesting). The females provision their nests with sufficient pollen for the larvae to feed on when they hatch, then they lay an egg alongside each lump of pollen, seal the nest, and die before their young complete their life cycles to become adult bees. These new adult bees remain in hibernation in their nests throughout autumn and winter... and emerge the following year in spring or summer to start their life cycle all over again. ************************ [caption id="attachment_6275" align="aligncenter" width="320"] Apis mellifera (Honeybee)[/caption] Only honeybees make honey, which they make out of nectar collected from flowers. Honeybees turn the nectar into honey to store over winter, so the colony has something to feed on whilst it's too cold to forage and flowers are scarce. Other bee species also collect nectar, but do not turn it into honey. They just use it as an energy drink. ************************* [caption id="attachment_6276" align="aligncenter" width="320"] Bombus terrestris (Buff-tailed bumblebee)[/caption] Unlike honeybee colonies, bumblebee colonies do not overwinter. Each bumblebee colony produces males and new daughter queens in the summer (at different times depending on the species). These new queens mate and then go into hibernation till next spring. The old queen, together with all the female workers and the males, die before winter. That is the end of this nest. So, in a way, you could say honeybee colonies are 'perennials' and bumblebees colonies are 'annuals'. ************************ As well as collecting nectar, bees also collect pollen, which they use to feed their young. Different species collect their pollen in different ways..... Social bees (honeybees and bumblebees) collect it in pollen baskets on their hind legs. They pack the pollen into these baskets very neatly, so don't drop much off on their way home. Solitary bees, however, collect pollen on stiff branched hairs, either under their abdomen (cavity nesting species) or on their legs (ground nesting species). It is not moistened or packed down, which means lots of this pollen drops off on the other flowers they visit as they make their way home. This makes them extremely good pollinators. ************************ Only female bees have a sting. Male bees do not. If a honeybee worker stings you, she dies. If bumblebees sting (which they very rarely do) they will not die. This is because the honeybee sting is barbed, whereas the bumblebee sting is more like a needle. Apart from a few exceptions, solitary bee stings are mostly redundant and incapable of even piercing the human skin. *********************** [caption id="attachment_6278" align="aligncenter" width="320"] Halictus rubicundus (Orange-legged Furrow-bee)[/caption] The most important thing of all is that we provide food and habitat for ALL of these species. They all pollinate different plants, in different ways, at different times of the year, and in different habitats. DIVERSITY is the key! It is equally important that we provide for other pollinating insects like butterflies, moths, hoverflies, beetles, wasps and flies. Photos within this post are of a honeybee, bumblebee, cavity nesting solitary bee and ground nesting bee.... showing the different ways they collect their pollen. Thanks for reading, Brigit Strawbridge. Thanks so much to Brigit for this guest post, hope you enjoyed it and have maybe learnt something new, we certainly have.
On Friday 24th March Green&Blue were delighted to attend the private view of the new exhibition by Cornish legend, artist and campaigner Kurt Jackson. 'Bees (and the Odd Wasp) in My Bonnet' is described as a unique presentation of contemporary art and science and arrives at the Jackson Foundation Gallery in St Just, near St Ives, from its initial prestigious opening at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History (where it attracted over 100,000 visitors). The exhibition will now run to the 19th August 2017. Upstairs at the gallery the charity space has been given over to two bee friendly charities, B4 - Bring Back Black Bees and Friends of the Earth, who lead many of the bee campaigns in the UK. Friends of the Earth very kindly asked us to curate a display of bee bricks to demonstrate ways in which loss of habitat can be addressed. Visitors will find a large central display wall made completely from bee bricks. It's fantastic to sit within what will be a mecca for bee and art lovers alike. Cornwall Wildlife Trust are also working with the Jackson Foundation and will be leading bee walks, amongst other things. The private view was attended by some of the great and the good of the bee world, including Dave Timms from Friends of the earth, who gave an impassioned and inspiring 'call to action' speech on behalf of the bees and Michael Eavis who is the patron of B4. On theme drinks were supplied by Skinners brewery in the form of Hops and Honey - very apt! If you can then make sure you go along and visit the exhibition before it ends. Kurt Jacksons' artwork perfectly captures the movement, beauty and humour of bees and we're certain you'll come out inspired to do more and think more about these beautiful winged creatures, on whom we rely for so much. Find out more about the Jackson Foundation and opening hours here. See more images of the opening night on the Jackson Foundation Facebook page here. Images courtesy of Friends of the Earth.
This month we talked to our friends over at Little Green SpaceÂ an award-winning environmental project and magazine, and asked them about top tips for creating your own little green space. They'd put together a great infographic of 5 top tips to make your own little green space more nature friendly and they kindly said we could share it with you. So here you go, enjoy! Do let us know how you get on with making your little green space greener and more nature friendly!
A journalist recently wrote that "sixties Brutalism is alive and well with Green&Blue's concrete bee hotels, and planters." The brutalist movement flourished in the 1960s-1970s. The term has been usedÂ toÂ describe a type of architecture which is uglyÂ andÂ austere and commonly thought of as the back bone of welfare state architecture of the time, however this "truth to materials" approach was anti-aesthetic. Reynar Banham (Architecture critic) dubbed the post war school 'the New Brutalism', a movement which aimed, in his words, to "make the whole conception of the building plain and comprehensible. No mystery, no romanticism, no obscurities about function and circulation." Our designs endeavour to evoke a sense of simplicity through their functionality, their material longevity and purpose. We hope the juxtaposition between concrete and delicate planting providing sustenance to nurture the next generation of solitary bees will long out last the brutalist movement. Green&Blue stockist the Hepworth Gallery, Wakefield.
Following hot on the heels of the Great British Bee Count comes another bee count, only this time there's certain bees you're looking for! Queen Mary University biologists have released 500 bees from London rooftops and will be releasing more over the next few weeks. Each bee has been fitted with a tiny 'license plate' If you're in London it's up to you now to feed into the project by recording sightings and numbers if you spot any of the licensed bees. There's a photography competition running where you can submit images of your sightings and they will use the data to build a picture of where the highest numbers of bees are spotted and the bee friendliest gardens. You can find out more about the project and how you can get involved right here and we wish the project every success.