We are dipping our toes into the art of Wild Beekeeping. Its a complicated business mainly because the poor solitary bees are plagued by all manner of other insects who want to take advantage of the hard work the bees have put in. Its a battle, and one the bees often lose.
There are observation panels on each side so that you can see whats going on.
Having learnt last week that the bee observation box that we already had is not actually good for bees because the glass tubes are not porous leading to fungal problems, we have now bought a new, award-winning box. This is designed by an enthusiast who has tried to address many of the problems the bees face when bringing the next generation into the world.
Within an hour there was a Red Mason Bee bringing in mud to start her nest:
The instructions recommend that there are plenty of pollen flowers nearby and also wet mud. The further the bees have to fly for these things, the longer they are away from the nest and the more opportunity for the predators to nip in and lay one of their eggs on the lovely heap of pollen that the bee has gathered. With this in mind, we have put an upside down turf dipping into the nearby new pond so that it will constantly wick up water and remain wet for the bees to use.
Looking in the box that we already had, we see that the leaf cutter bees have now emerged because one has started building a nest in one of the tunnels:
There is much to learn about all this that we don’t currently know. At the end of the Summer, we are going to be harvesting the cocoons out of the new box and keeping them safe from predators over the winter and control the emergence of the bees next Spring – a bit of a daunting thought but we have a comprehensive set of instructions now to guide us. It will be interesting to see how it all goes.