Belfast Telegraph

Five weird facts that you won't bee-lieve

A foraging bumblebee with a full stomach is only ever about 40 minutes away from starvation, and that's just for starters

By Hannah Stephenson

As the Royal Horticultural Society and The Wildlife Trusts join forces in a campaign to help save our bees, we look at some of the more unusual traits of our buzzing buddies. Bee Creative In The Garden! - a new campaign launched by the RHS in collaboration with The Wildlife Trusts, is urging gardeners to help protect bees.

Gardeners can download a wild bee-friendly gardening guide, while wildlife events and a 'Bee Creative' photo competition are running to November 1. So, what didn't you know about bees?

1. Artistic bees make circles in plants

The leafcutter bee is incredibly crafty, cutting little circles out of plants and gluing them together with its sticky saliva, to create miniature nests in which they lay their eggs. Look out for the characteristic holes in garden leaves, especially roses. The red mason bee, small but mighty, builds its nests in hollow stems, holes in cliffs and in gaps in the walls of buildings.

2. Bees have different tongue lengths

Bumblebees with shorter tongues need low, open flowers with nectar within easy reach. These include flowers from the daisy family and those like alliums, which have a number of small flowers on one stalk. Deeper flowers have significantly more nectar per flower. Bombus hortorum bees have long tongues, so they can visit flowers with petals that form long tubes, such as honeysuckle, delphiniums and catmint.

3. Bees rob flowers

Some bee species have resorted to 'robbing' the nectar by cutting a hole in the base of the flower and getting at the nectar that way. The flower loses out because its pollen is not transported to other flowers nearby.

4. Some bees make odd nests

Unlike solitary bees, bumblebees do not generally make use of artificial bee nest boxes. They create their own nests, varying in size, often in an old mouse hole underground, in loft spaces, compost heaps or bird boxes. Nests are non-damaging and will only be active for one season, so don't worry if you find one in your loft. Bumblebees are known for nesting in strange places - nests have been found under a disused lawnmower and inside a rolled-up carpet. Tree bumblebees arrived in the UK around a decade ago and you may find them nesting in a bird box in your garden

5. Full bees are never far from starvation

A foraging bumblebee with a full stomach is only ever about 40 minutes away from starvation. So, if you see a bumblebee on the ground, it's likely to be tired and in need of food. You can help by mixing sugar with water, placing the solution on a teaspoon and leaving it in front of the bee. Once it's eaten its fill, it will 'bee' on its way.

The Bee Creative In the Garden! campaign culminates in Wild About Gardens Week, from Oct 23-29, featuring activities focused on how to help bees survive the winter ahead.

The wild bee-friendly gardening guide can be downloaded at Wild About Gardens Week

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