Every allotment should have a few flowers to attract bees and other pollinators, they are also great for humans!
Bees are vital to the UK’s ecosystem, providing essential pollination services for many crops and wildflowers. However, with over 270 species of bees in the UK, identifying them can be a daunting task.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of the most common bee species found in the UK and provide tips on how to identify them.
Bumblebees are perhaps the most familiar of all bees in the UK. These large, fuzzy bees are typically black and yellow or black and white in colour, with a rounded, furry body. They are social bees that live in colonies, with a queen bee and female worker bees. Bumblebees are excellent pollinators and can be seen buzzing around gardens, parks, and countryside during the spring and summer months.
There are around 24 species of bumblebee in the UK, and they can be distinguished from other bees by their relatively large size and furry appearance. Common species include the Buff-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris), White-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lucorum), and the Garden Bumblebee (Bombus hortorum).
Unlike bumblebees, solitary bees do not live in colonies and do not have a queen. Instead, each female bee builds and provisions her own nest. There are over 200 species of solitary bees in the UK, and they come in various shapes and sizes. Some of the most common species include the Red Mason Bee (Osmia bicornis), the Leafcutter Bee (Megachile centuncularis), and the Tawny Mining Bee (Andrena fulva).
Solitary bees can be difficult to identify, but some general characteristics to look out for include a slender, shiny body and a relatively hairless appearance. Solitary bees are also typically smaller than bumblebees.
Honeybees are another common bee species in the UK. Unlike bumblebees and solitary bees, honeybees are not native to the UK but were introduced by humans. These bees are social, living in large colonies of up to 60,000 individuals. They are typically golden brown in colour and have long, slender body with black and brown stripes.
Honeybees are important pollinators and are widely used in agriculture for their ability to pollinate crops such as apples, pears, and strawberries.
Identifying bees can be challenging, but there are a few key things to look out for. Firstly, consider the size and shape of the bee. Bumblebees are larger and more rounded than solitary bees, while honeybees are slender and elongated.
Next, take a look at the bee’s colour and markings. Bumblebees are typically black and yellow or black and white, while solitary bees can be a range of colours, from metallic green to shiny black. Honeybees are golden-brown with black and brown stripes.
Finally, consider the bee’s behaviour. Bumblebees are social and can often be seen buzzing around in groups, while solitary bees are typically seen alone. Honeybees often fly in a straight line to and from their hive.
Here’s a detailed list of what to look for:
|Bee Name||Appearance||Months Seen|
|Buff-tailed Bumblebee||Large, furry body with a yellow/brown thorax and a buff-colored tail||March-October|
|White-tailed Bumblebee||Large, furry body with a yellow/brown thorax and a white tail||March-October|
|Garden Bumblebee||Large, furry body with a yellow/brown thorax and a black abdomen with a white tail||March-October|
|Common Carder Bee||Furry body with a gingery-brown thorax and a brown/black abdomen||March-October|
|Red-tailed Bumblebee||Large, furry body with a red/brown thorax and a black abdomen with a red tail||April-September|
|Early Bumblebee||Large, furry body with a yellow/black thorax and a black abdomen with a red tail||March-June|
|Hairy-footed Flower Bee||Shiny black body with hairy legs and a rust-colored underside||March-June|
|Mining Bees||Slender body with a shiny black abdomen and a pale underside||March-July|
|Mason Bees||Small, metallic green or blue body with a black abdomen||April-July|
|Tawny Mining Bee||Slender body with a rust-colored thorax and a black abdomen||March-May|
|Ashy Mining Bee||Slender body with a grey/brown thorax and a black abdomen||April-June|
|Yellow-legged Mining Bee||Slender body with a black thorax and a yellow/black striped abdomen||April-June|
|Leafcutter Bee||Small, furry body with a black abdomen and bands of pale hair on the thorax||June-August|
|Red Mason Bee||Small,|
|Moorland Mining Bee||Small, slender body with a brown/black thorax and a black abdomen with white hair bands||April-July|
|Hairy-footed Bee||Shiny black body with hairy legs and a rust-colored underside||March-June|
|Blue Mason Bee||Small, metallic blue body with a black abdomen||April-June|
|Green-eyed Flower Bee||Shiny black body with green eyes and a rusty-colored underside||April-June|
|Red-tailed Mining Bee||Slender body with a red thorax and a black abdomen with a red tail||April-June|
|Black Mining Bee||Slender body with a shiny black thorax and a black abdomen||April-July|
|Long-horned Bee||Slender body with long antennae and a black/brown abdomen with white hair bands||May-August|
|Brown Mining Bee||Slender body with a shiny brown thorax and a|
Brian Sheridan has an allotment in Edgbaston and is a competitive grower. Brian is also a keen photographer and loves cooking. Brian and his wife Mary will also be running a stall at Edgebaston artisan market this year, selling products made from the allotment, including his award-winning relish!