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Get to know bees

Get to know Bees – Solitary and Bumblebees

I was surprised to read recently that managed honey bees can only meet about a third of Britain’s pollination needs – probably you, too, thought otherwise! But then, last July I wrote about hoverflies – pollinators, and now we have a talk about solitary and bumblebees who are also very important pollinators. There was an article in The Times quite recently quoting researchers who have found that nectar which is too sweet slows down bumblebees as they forage for food; they evidently lap up nectar from a flower which is then stored in an internal chamber called ‘a honey stomach’. They then have to regurgitate this when they get back to their nests and, if the nectar contains too much sugar – and is therefore more syrupy – it takes them a lot longer, so the time spent going from flower to flower is reduced and fewer flowers are pollinated … bad for our food supplies.

Not only that but many wild bee species are in decline and scientists are demanding more protection for pollinating insects whose activities are worth an estimated £700 million a year to farmers. We are very lucky to have Josh Wells coming to talk to us on 25thMarch at the Civic Centre.Josh is the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust's Senior Reserves Officer and an expert on the wild bees that you are likely to find in Hertfordshire, how they live and how to help them. Perhaps he will be telling us how we can make a solitary bee hotel. Josh also leads nature walks in the Chilterns to spot solitary and bumblebee habitats – I guess you need good eyesight for that, but, whatever, I’m sure we are in for a fascinating evening.

Judith Watson

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