Why are solitary bees important?

Many people don’t know that there are around 20 000 bee species worldwide. Only 9 of these species are honeybees and 250 are bumble bee species. The other species are solitary bees. In the Netherlands 363 various of solitary bees are found until now and most of them are on the red list of the European union while they pollinate more efficiently than the well-known honeybee.

silk bee, colletes, wild bee

Why is pollination important?

When bees are buzzing from plant to plant, they are pollinating our plants and crops. This service is essential for our food production but also for trees and flowers that provide habitats for wildlife. While there are other pollination methods like by the wind, birds and bats, wild bees are one of the most important pollinators. When bees would go extinct approximately 3/4 of all flowering plants will be almost impossible to grow. To name some examples, vegetables as broccoli and cucumber and fruits as strawberries, apples, tomatoes and almonds all heavily depend on pollination and thus bees and without them a lot of people would be malnourished. However, due to urban developments, invasive farming methods and the use of toxic pesticides, bees are in decline worldwide making this situation a real threat.

Why are solitary bees in decline?

The actual bees that are under threat of extinction are the solitary bees. These bees don’t live in a hive but live solitary and do not produce honey like honeybees. They nest in hollow stalks and holes in soil, sand, clay or wood but due to urbanisation they do not have a lot of places to nest in. Our desire for neatness and uniformity that shows in gardens containing non flowering grass and paved spots, creates a problem for solitary as they no longer can find a home or a snack in there.

Another big problem is the use of pesticides. Seeds are often treated with pesticides as a preventative treatment which remains in the plants as they flower. Both honey bees and solitary bees pick up these chemicals but solitary bees have shown to be most affected by it (source). 

Why can’t honeybees take over?

As already mentioned, solitary bees are much more efficient than honeybees. Therefore, one would need so many more honeybees to take over the work of one solitary bee. Moreover, most solitary bees have a specialisation for a certain fruit or plant increasing their efficiency even more. In watermelons, 90% of the pollination comes from solitary bees.  In tomato pollination, bumble bees are needed as honeybees are not big enough to sufficiently succeed.

Now you know why solitary bees are so important it is time to take action! One way we did is buy developing the Mini Bee&Bee, a Bed&Breakfast for bees which can be placed in your garden or balcony.

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