Q Which bees are found in gardens?
A Bees are a large, varied family of insects. Some, such as the honey bee and bumble bee, nest in colonies, others are solitary. They are well-known pollinators. Leaf-cutting bees remove leaf pieces for their nests. Mining or burrowing bees nest in soil, carpenter bees in garden structures and masonry bees in stonework.
Caption: Bees are very useful as pollinators
Q What could I mistake them for?
A Bees could be mistaken for wasps, but they don’t have the familiar yellow bands, and are much furrier, often with yellow pollen sacs on sturdy hind limbs.
Q Are bees useful to gardeners?
A Honey bees and bumble bees are vital pollinators for fruit and vegetables and do no damage.
Q What damage can other bees do?
A The many species of leaf-cutter bee (Megachile spp.) live alone, making small nests in the soil, sometimes in pots, rotten wood or hollow stems. They make these nests out of circular pieces of leaf. Each nest has several individual cells containing eggs and young, plus a food supply of honey and pollen. The bees develop in these nests, emerging the following spring. Roses in particular are prone to this sort of damage, but privet, rhododendrons, lilac and laburnum are all subject to attack. Petals of fuchsia, viola and geranium may also be used. Overall, the effect on the plant is slight, and there is no need for action. Plants required for cutting or showing can be protected with insect-proof mesh.
Burrowing bees, such as the tawny burrowing bee (Andrena armata), nest in the soil. In lawns, the spoil from their delving creates little heaps of fine soil. These often occur in groups, and may need to be brushed away before mowing. They make small burrows, up to 30cm deep, in spring and early summer, with a cell at the bottom and more cells in side tunnels. Each cell contains an egg and a food supply of pollen and honey. When fully stocked, the burrow is sealed with earth. The bees develop beneath the ground and emerge in spring.
Masonry bees are so called because they nest in holes in old walls. They are really several different species of bee, which, like leaf-cutting bees, do not form swarms or hives. These bees favour warm banks, but soft walls are an alternative. To deter them, repoint the wall, as the bees can’t deal with hard materials.
Q What should I do about swarms of bees?
A Only honey bees swarm, when a queen leaves the hive to find a new colony. If you find a swarm in your house or garden, contact a local beekeeper and ask them to remove it (they may charge for this). Ask the pest-control officer of your local council for contact details or, in an emergency, contact the police.