Written by: Darryl Cox, Science and Policy Officer at Bumblebee Conservation Trust
New homes for bumblebees
Redrow and the Bumblebee Conservation Trust are working in partnership to help bumblebees by creating bee-friendly habitats. Here's how you can help too.
This is the best time of year to see bumblebee queens. Those big bumbling fur balls are hard to miss as they hurtle through the air, or when you hear their distinctively deep low pitched buzz and notice them searching the vegetation for food and shelter. They have one of the most important jobs in all of the animal kingdom – creating a colony of super-efficient foragers which will be out rain or shine, pollinating a vast number and variety of flowers as they go. We humans have a lot to thank them for. Without their services many of our most nutritious crops and wildflowers would struggle to reproduce, rendering our world a very different place.
Luckily, there are some small things we can all do to show our gratitude and help bumblebees out.
First and foremost we can help provide lots of the right kinds of flowers throughout the year, especially in early spring when there aren’t many around. The first thing on a bumblebee queen’s mind when she wakes up after several months in hibernation is quite rightly, breakfast! Plants like Pussy Willows, Crocuses, Lungworts and Winter Heathers are all great for hungry queens in these early days. For planting tips – try the Bee Kind tool.
The next thing on the agenda is finding somewhere to call home. Once they have sufficiently replenished their energy reserves, newly emerged queens can often be seen investigating the ground for potential places to nest. We can offer these queen bumblebees with prospective new homes using stuff that most of us probably have lying around the garden shed! Try this easy-to-follow guide to setting up a bumble abode:
What you need:
A flowerpot (>20cm in diameter)
A piece of slate / tile
A bit of tube or pipe (>2cm diameter and no longer than 1.5m)
Old rodent bedding / nesting material
Choose a nice shaded area and dig a shallow hole to submerge ¼ flowerpot.
Dig a channel and run the pipe underground to the nest site. Leave a prominent entrance and be sure to make drainage holes in the pipe.
Fill flowerpot with a generous handful of nesting material, such as old bedding from a pet mouse or Guinea pig.
Sink the upturned flower pot into the ground over the pipe exit, and use the slate/ tile to cover any drainage holes to keep the rain out.
Some species prefer to nest in different places like on the surface of the ground in dense vegetation or high up above ground, so it is well worth leaving a corner of the garden to grow wild, or putting up a bird-box somewhere as these could prove to be just the right place for a new queen to call home. Whilst there is no guarantee that your potential nest site will become a bumble abode, it is great fun making one (for big kids and little ones) and definitely worth a try. Even if no bees bed down in your abode, planting plenty of bee-friendly flowers will provide vital food for bumblebee colonies nearby.