Kendal and South Westmorland Beekeepers’ Association

Solitary Bees

Male Wool-Carder Bee Solitary bees have no worker bee caste; individual bees make simple nests consisting only of a few cells.
This wool carder bee uses the woolly plant hairs of lamb’s ear, which it ‘cards’ into felt. It does not produce wax.
The cells are provided with a mixture of pollen and nectar, an egg is laid, the cell is sealed and the larva left to develop. No childcare!
Try planting a clump of lamb’s ear in a sunny spot and watch for a male carder bee like the one on the left patrolling and guarding the clump. He has no sting but has 5 spines at his tail end with which he prods unwanted insect visitors to see them off!
Solitary bees nest in insect holes in wood, hollow stems, crevices in mortar and tunnels in the soil. Some use mud to construct their cells, leaf-cutter bees use pieces neatly snipped out of plant leaves (often rose) and the carder-bee uses ‘wool’.
This solitary bee (Halictus rubucundus) makes its nest holes in sunny, sandy riverbanks.
You can see the grains of pollen on her face and pollen in her pollen baskets on her legs, so she must be a female bee (she has pollen baskets).
Solitary bee on mud bank
Holes made by mason bees Attracting Solitary Bees to Your Garden

The Red Mason Bee uses mud to construct her cells.
You can buy or make a ‘house’ for red mason bees and an instruction book to tell you what to do.
Leave a patch of your garden ‘wild’ and a bit untidy, leave some hollow plant stems to provide a sunny nest site.
Plant some wild flowers and when you choose your garden plants choose old-fashioned single varieties.
You will probably already have solitary bees visiting your garden; there are about 200 species in Britain, Check it’s a bee – 4 wings and females have pollen baskets on their legs or under their abdomen.
Man-made solitary bee house