There are approximately 270 species of bee in Britain:
- 250 species are solitary bees
- Under 20 species are bumblebees
- There is one honey bee species
Most people are familiar with the honey bee as they are responsible for producing the honey we eat. At Sherwood Forest, we have three hives which are looked after by our own beekeepers, Kev and John from Technical Services.
The reason honey bees are used for producing honey is due to the enormous colonies they create, anywhere between 10,000 to 80,0000 individual bees at any one time. As well as being great at producing honey, the sheer volume of honey bees makes them a very important pollinator. Honey bees have been domesticated for centuries and are probably now more common in hives than in the wild but we do have some wild colonies at Center Parcs Sherwood Forest
, some of which have existed for several years now.
After the honey bee, the bumblebee species are the next best known. This is due to their large, furry bodies which makes them easy to see as they head from one flower to another in our gardens and wider habitats. Bumblebees are also social insects but not on the same scale as honey bees with the largest colonies only holding several hundred individuals at any one time.
Unlike honey bee colonies which are active throughout the year, the bumblebee queens hibernate over winter and the workers and males don’t survive. So each spring the emerging queens have to start afresh. They nest in any suitable cavity such as in a tree, outbuilding or even bird boxes. Some species use old mouse nests or make nests in long grassy areas. Creating such a habitat in your garden is a great way to support these important pollinators.
The Solitary Bee
Despite the huge variety of species the solitary bees are the least known and understood by the general public but are actually vitally important pollinators. Some species of solitary bee are bee for bee, more efficient pollinators than honey bees. As their name suggests solitary bees do not form large colonies, instead each female will create her own nest.
Due to the large diversity of species, their nesting habits are equally diverse with nests being made in the ground, in walls and earth banks. There are even three species in Britain that use old snail shells as their nests! Although they nest singly some species do nest communally, utilising an appropriate piece of habitat. At Sherwood Forest, one of the easiest such species to see is the Ashy Mining bee which can be seen excavating their nest holes on our heathlands and other appropriate areas in spring.
How can we help?
Read WWF’s guide to being more bee-friendly here
If you want to find out more about the wildlife at Center Parcs, why not experience a Wildlife Walk
on your next break