As part of Pollinator Awareness Week (13th-19th July), Bees’ Needs week has running this week on Twitter – check out #BeesNeeds to see lots of fascinating tweets on how to help bees by charities, businesses and bee experts. You don’t need a Twitter account to read them.
You may well have already seen this story on Emma’s Miss Apis Mellifera blog, but if not check out this charming bee hotel created by Yorkshire family tea business Taylors of Harrogate. The rooms provide sweet sustenance for hungry bee visitors and are themed by the company’s tea flavours, such as sour cherry and spiced apple. You can get a free taster pack of their fruit & herbal teas at bees.taylorstea.co.uk
Here’s a short video of bumblebees enjoying the hotel on You Tube: Taylors of Harrogate Bee Hotel.
“Research by the University of Bristol has found that rural bees are in the decline as opposed to city bees, and as a solution, Taylors of Harrogate has created a luxury bee hotel to support the work of urban busy-bees! By creating the bee hotel Taylors of Harrogate is also thanking the bees for the flavour, as without bees there would be no flavour in our teas! The miniature hotel is an intricately designed, with luxury interior features such as plates filled with pollen to feast on in the Rose Lemonade restaurant, and a sugar water bath in the Sweet Rhubarb suite.”
The Taylors of Harrogate bee hotel is an intricately designed miniature hotel, with luxury interior features such as plates filled with pollen to feast on in the Rose Lemonade restaurant, and a sugar water bath in the Sweet Rhubarb suite.
The hotel itself is made from balsa wood and includes traditional hollow tubes in the bedrooms, which is a popular nesting choice for solitary bees. Other key features, such as sugar water baths and ultraviolet patterns, have been included based on scientific research that suggests that bees are attracted to these, and will therefore be enticed to enter the bee hotel to get some much needed rest and relaxation.
Kate Halloran from Taylors of Harrogate, adds: “Bees are so important in helping to provide great flavour, but less attention has been paid to show how urban areas can be made more pollinator-friendly. The aim of the bee hotel is to not only educate and entertain, but to also inspire action. From the Peppermint Leaf Gym for a complete wing work out, through to the luxury Sweet Rhubarb Suite with its decadent rhubarb sugar water bath and UV disco, their every need will be taken care of.
“Many people may be unaware that some of our favourite fruits, including apple and cherries all depend on insect pollinators, including bees. We want to raise awareness of this issue and encourage everyone to get more deeply involved and help create a network of real bee hotels, starting in their own back gardens.”
City vs rural bees
Taylors of Harrogate commissioned a poll to measure public perceptions of bee populations in the UK and found that 75 per cent of surveyed Brits would expect to see more bees in rural areas – but according to experts, it is now more common to find a wider variety of bees thriving in UK cities.
Research led by the University of Bristol has found that when comparing the number of bee species living in urban and rural areas, there were on average 9.3 species (per km2) in urban areas, compared to only 7.3 species (per km2) in farmlands. [This is probably due to monocrops in rural areas, which leave little for bees to feed on once they have finished flowering. In contrast urban areas tend to have a greater variety of flowering plants.]
Dr Katherine Baldock from the University of Bristol comments: “Bees need two things; food and a suitable nesting site. Both of these can be found in UK cities, although our research shows that urban areas can host high numbers of bees, as well as many different species, there are still many ways we can improve our towns and cities for bees, other pollinators and wildlife in general. Bee-friendly flowers in gardens and public places provide crucial pollen and nectar sources and bee hotels provide important nesting sites.”
How urban (and rural!) gardeners can help
Helen Bostock, Senior Horticultural Advisor at the Royal Horticultural Society, has written some advice on planting for pollinators: RHS National Pollinator Awareness Week. Her suggestions include:
- Keep an eye for plants and seed mixes bearing the RHS Perfect for Pollinator bee logo or advertised as good for pollinators.
- See what works well in your garden and neighbouring gardens – if you spot a plant that’s covered in bees, plant more of it! The RHS Perfect for Pollinators lists are a good starting point but don’t be afraid to try out new things.
- Strive to have something in flower in your garden every month of the year. British wildflowers tend to peak in early summer so add some late flowering plants such as Japanese anemones, asters, chrysanthemums and single-flowered dahlias.
- Get involved with a local beekeeping society. Even if you’re not inclined to keep honey bees yourself, you can support beekeepers in your neighbourhood by stocking your garden with nectar and pollen rich flowers.
- Put up ‘bee hotels’. These work a treat for providing nesting sites for some of our wild, solitary bees such as Red Mason Bee.
- Don’t disturb bumblebee nests or the nests of ground nesting bees.
To find out more about opening your very own luxury bee hotel visit bees.taylorstea.co.uk.
The solitary bees have preferred to nest in our old garden sheds rather than our bee hotels, which means we can’t now get new sheds this year. I wish they’d followed the signs I put up outside the bug hotel saying ‘Bees and butterflies welcome here’.
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Oh dear! Perhaps they are trying to save you money 😉
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Too cute, Emily! But a nice way to get the message across. My urban backyard bees (with mature, watered gardens all around them in our neighbourhood) make much more honey and are more healthy and populous than my farmland bees. These days, fallow fields are planted in grasses, not in clover/alfalfa mixes, and farmers are cutting down all the hedgerows, so there is nothing out there for bees at all. I have been broadcasting annual sweet white clover (Melilotus var. Hubam), and planting catmint in all the unused byways I can find locally to improve nectar forage for bees. BTW Hibiscus syriacus (Rose of Sharon) and sedums provide late season forage for bees. And if you succession sow clovers you can have forage all through the season.
It’s so sad about farmers cutting down hedgerows and moving away from clover. Thank you for your hard work planting up the byways!
What a lovely idea! It’s great that Taylors of Harrogate has drawn attention to the plight of our bees in such a charming way. The urban v rural bees is always fascinating. Certainly around here modern farming methods aren’t helping the bees at all.
I agree – a good reason to buy organic food if you can afford it. I sometimes do to try and support the organic farmers.
I was surprised to read that : ‘there were on average 9.3 species (per km2) in urban areas, compared to only 7.3 species (per km2) in farmlands.’ Although, I suppose it makes sense given what a wasteland many farming areas have become.
I watched the video on the bee hotel and it was really cute watching the bees in the different rooms. I wonder why balsa wood was used. It seems not very rain proof and very light for construction. It looks like the bees offed the Koi in the little pond though. Rest in peace little fake fishes. 😀