UK Solitary Bee Guardian Scheme

By: Michael Fox

Our cocoon-sharing program is the only one of its kind in the UK and makes caring for red mason bees even more accessible by taking out some of the dirtier, trickier elements of the process.

It’s the perfect way to get started if you’re new to the world of solitary bees!

Chris Whittles MasonBees UK

 

 

Meeting Chris and John Whittles at their Shrewsbury, MasonBees UK business has been a highlight of my travels. Chris is an agronomist by training and founder of the very successful CJ Wildlife: suppliers of species specific bird feeders and food. Chris’ focus on research means over 80 species are now being fed, up from an initial 18 species. Chris’ research has also demonstrated the importance of year round feeding for UK garden birds. Chris was also interviewed by Daryl Jones for his excellent book The Birds at My Table: Why We Feed Wild Birds and Why It Matters.

 

DSC02610

Bee Lodge & nesting tubes

John and Chris produce solitary bee homes in different formats like this Bee Lodge(TM) that includes a removable draw. Great for educational purposes as the individual Mason or Leaf-cutter nest cells to be observed through clear plastic panel. 

DSC02661

Viewing draw

 

Designs are evolving with experience, for example, longer nesting tubes increasing bee production. However, at this time, the most common design in use is a simple pipe firmly clamped to a support with a slight downward angle for drainage. The pipe is filled with bundles of nesting tubes. 

Pipe Bee Lodge - close - 30 Aug 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chris’ agronomist background means that he has a strong focus on research and innovation as well as a focus on scale-ability of their solitary bee project. 

 

  • Narrow species focus: Red Mason Bee Osmia bicornus
    • Adopting a narrow species focus has allowed refinement of Bee Home design to maximise reproductive success.
  • Development of easy maintenance nesting tubes
    • Two part cardboard nesting tubes:
      • Inner tubes are easily removed when full. Tubes are then soaked in water to release the cocoons ready for storage over winter. 
      • Soaking nest tube - photo - masonbees

        Soaking nest tubes – Photo: MasonBees UK

        Outer tubes are then refitted with clean inner tubes ready for next season. 
    • Working this way dramatically reduces build up of parasites in nest tubes and pheromones retained in outer tubes attract bees back next season. 
  • Guardian Scheme 
    • Probably the most innovative initiative is establishment of the Guardian Scheme which allows bee lovers, gardeners and farmers right across the UK to be part of a native bee recovery programme.
    • Guardians make an initial investment in a Guardian Kit then send mud-capped tubes back in September. In return, Guardians are told what was found inside their tubes and they are sent new cocoons in spring – along with a replacement tube refill for each one sent in.
    • Over 1,000 Guardians are now active across the United Kingdom. 

 

DSC02631

Chris collecting nest tubes

Chris and John are proud of the success of the Guardian Scheme. So we visited Attingham’s Walled Garden, a local site where Bee Homes have been installed progressively over the past five years. 

 

When they started installing the Bee Homes the apple orchard section of the Garden had never produced a crop. The day we visited the apple trees were heavy with fruit. Productivity across the whole garden had improved dramatically with the help of the solitary native bee pollinators. 

 

 

Thanks to Chris and John for your generous time sharing your experience. 

 

 

 

 

About Mt Gravatt Environment Group

Mt Gravatt Environment Group is restoring a unique piece of Australain native bushland only ten minutes from Brisbane CBD.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to UK Solitary Bee Guardian Scheme

  1. What an interesting project and article!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s