A male Hairy-footed Flower Bee (Anthophora plumipes) (Photograph: Jon Sadler)
An Ash Miner Bee (Andrena cineraria) (Photograph: Jon Sadler)
When people think of bees they usually think of stings, honey, colonies or hives and Honey or Bumble Bees. But there are lots of other bee species in the UK; some live in colonies, some in aggregations (bee cities), some live on their own, many cannot produce painful stings, and none of them make honey! In fact, there are around 250 species of bee in the UK and they provide a wealth of important ecosystem services for humans.
Widespread decline in bee numbers in the UK is a major concern to all of us. We need bee species, because together with wind, they are the most important pollinators of crops and wild plants. Flowers come in a huge variety of shapes and sizes, and need a wide variety of different species of bee to pollinate them effectively. So the future of flowering plants and people is dependent on the existence of a high biodiversity of bee species.
OPAL West Midlands are researching bees across the region to highlight their importance to regional biodiversity and highlight their plight. We are running a range of different research and outreach projects over the next few years. The first two of these are already underway.
New OPAL bee research paper has been published in PLoS ONE and is freely available as full text or a download here. Congratulations Adam!
There is now a bee video live on the OPAL website, plus an updated guide to making a bee hotel.
BWARS has just published the three of five new leaflets on common bumblebees and solitary bees. The first few cover the Tree bumblebee, Bombus hypnorum, the Red Mason Bee, Osmia rufa, and the Hairy-footed Flower Bee, Anthophora plumipes. More are coming soon!
The are must download for all bee enthusiasts. Find them here.
We have now finished replacing the bee nests at all our allotment sites in region. We have also seeded these with cocoons from last year's nests to enhance the residency rates. Thanks to all people involved in helping with this important research.
Our first major project has looked at the factors influencing the nesting success of bees. Adults build nests in a wide variety of situations (e.g. in tunnels in the ground, in hollow plant stems, and even in empty snail shells!), and stock these nests with cakes of pollen and nectar on which they lay their eggs.
We are focusing on species of bee that naturally nest in tunnels in wood and soft stone, but also use artificial materials. The nests (hotels) we are using have been designed and constructed by CJ Wildlife and are cleverly made so that you can open them up to look inside the nest tubes to see the nest cells constructed by the female bee, and the silken cocoons of the larvae. They are now all located in a 165 sites across the West Midlands. We are recording the different species of bee that use these bee hotels, and the number and size of cocoons in them.
Project 2: Look for Bombus hypnorum
Keep an eye out for a newcomer to our national bee fauna. Bombus hypnorum is a new bumble bee that was first recorded in the UK in 2001 from a site in Wiltshire. OPAL WM are happy to be helping BWARS record the spread and movement of this species. It is a distinctive species with a unique combination of a ginger thorax and a white tail. No other UK bumble bee has this colour pattern. The species is often found on species of Cotoneaster and Lilac (Ceanothus spp.) and can be found on many flowery garden shrubs. In late June, males can often be found on bramble flowers. If you spot this species in your garden then please either email us or fill in our on-line recording form by clickinghere. Records should include full details of locality, date, recorder and identifier and, wherever possible, a photograph for verification purposes If you want to see a map or find out more check out the BWARS website by clicking here. Thanks for your help with this important issue.
To add a Bombus hypnorum record to our database please use the form here.