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Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Bee hotel update

Time to do a proper posting about my bee hotel project which I mentioned vaguely and showed one photo of in my June flowers post and much earlier on when it was being built! Naughty me, I've shown some photos on Facebook, Google+ and the Brittany and Normandy forum (from whence the original idea came) but neglected to keep up with it here!

The point of these boxes, often known as bee hotels, B&Bs or condos are to provide nesting places for solitary bees to lay their eggs in. They aren't places where bees sleep so are slightly mis-named. I originally mentioned the building of this hotel back in January on a posting called "Giving nature a helping hand". It's taken me some time to search for that - good grief that was a while back, how time flies! The link which I gave earlier to an external site giving a lot of good information about solitary bees and building hotels for them is here.

It's no longer easy for me to get in to take photos now that the hotel is in place on the east facing garage windowsill. Wild red poppies, Californian poppies and calendula have self seeded in this fairly wild spot in front of it, but I did manage to creep in to take some close up photos of some of the filled in holes.

Back in May a couple of the largest holes were filled in; these I think are the Mason bees which usually like to use the holes in our window frames which are designed for letting any water which gets in, out!

For a while I thought that was it as no other bees seemed to be interested, but obviously the Mason bees must lay earlier than other species of solitary bee. In the last few weeks there has been a lot of activity with different sized holes being filled in and I've seen several different sizes of bee going in and out of the holes.

Even the really tiny 1-2mm diameter holes have started to fill up.

I'm not entirely sure but I think some of the canes are being used too - it looks like the three in the centre of the photo have been filled in, or are in the process of being filled in. The canes with white centres are unhollowed out ones as I thought I'd try a good mixture of hollow bamboo canes and unhollow but soft centred canes and sticks, just to see what was popular and what wasn't.

It seems to me that the drilled holes are the popular ones though. Since taking these photos more holes have been filled in and yesterday I waited a while and took a few photos of some of the small bees visiting. I can't get decent photos though as they are so small and I'm the other side of the poppies!

This bee came along and seemed to be a bit disappointed that there weren't any of the medium sized holes left in this square block but after a while got busy with the next smallest empty hole. I really need to sit here for a while with the telephoto lens as if I creep in close the bees may be put off, but they are so tiny I can't crop the photos any more or they'd just be a blur!

Edit to say: since yesterday this hole has now been filled in!!!

Then along came a really tiny bee, one of the ones which have been going into the tiny holes on the left hand vertical strip of wood. Can you see it? It's that black speck in the bottom left of the photo!

I'm finding this really fascinating and exciting, especially seeing such tiny creatures that I didn't even know existed. We're all used to seeing bumble bees and honey bees which are of a reasonable size, but to think there are so many of these little things happily pollinating our flowers that we might have thought were just ants, if we'd even noticed them at all, that is.

I also came across a bumble bee nest hole in the lawn yesterday! I wouldn't have noticed it obviously, but for the fact that several Red Tailed bumble bees were milling about just above the grass. On closer inspection I saw a hole beneath the grass, so I watched and waited and saw several go in and come out again. This bee is hovering just above the nest hole which is the darker patch that you can see.

Yes, it's official. I'm becoming a bit of a bee geek. :-)

Update for the bee hotel in October: