Most of us are aware of the crisis facing the honeybee, but there are hundreds of lesser known species that need help.
On a rainy, windswept summer’s afternoon I find myself on the banks of the river Thames in Barking, east London, with a tape measure in hand, adjudicating at a Guinness world record attempt. I have been asked to measure the length, height and depth of a large wooden structure made out of more than 20,000 pieces of bamboo and 200 logs. It has taken local volunteers three weeks to cut, saw and drill into the wood and create what they hope will be the world’s largest bee house.
There is enough room in its interior for hundreds of residents who, it is hoped, will make their nests in the numerous holes and tunnels in the wood. Yet few if any of these bees will be recognisable to the public, for none of them make honey for our consumption, nor spend the summer buzzing from one brightly coloured flower to the next in our parks and gardens.
These lesser known bees are solitary insects that, as their name suggests, live alone rather than in large colonies like honeybees or bumblebees. Many survive for just a few weeks – enough time to mate, make a nest and lay their eggs. But, like their more sociable cousins, they perform vital pollination services while they busily collect nectar and pollen from plants to feed their offspring.
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