Outlook Issue 22 Winter 2016
News and Views from St. Mary's Woodbridge
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A buzz in the churchyard
You may have recently noticed some new residents in St Mary’s churchyard, opposite the north porch entrance – they are Mining Bees. Black and yellow flying insects digging into the ground, also referred to as Digger Bees, are solitary bees which nest in burrows in the ground. Unlike many social wasps and bees controlled by a queen they don’t form long-lived colonies, nor do they live inside one well-defended nest. Instead, each female mining bee digs an individual burrow to rear her own young. The sandy embanked section of the churchyard, warmed by the morning sun, is perfect for them. Stuart Roberts, a tourist who just happened to be visiting the church, has been studying wild bees for 30 years and is former chair of BWARS (Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society). He informed us that this particular type of Mining Bee is the Ivy Bee (Colletes hederae), a species that arrived in this country as recently as 2001, when it is believed to have dispersed from Northern France as part of a natural range extension. The original colonisation sites were in Dorset, Devon, Isle of Wight, Hastings and Folkestone, from where it has spread rapidly inland. Apparently, it was first recorded in this part of the world only a couple of years ago, and Stuart has now added our bees to the records. The bee times its annual emergence to coincide with the flowering period of ivy, upon which it depends for pollen. The bees become active in early September and remain so until mid-November. Ivy Bees are not aggressive: the males have no sting at all, and the females, which do possess a sting rating 1.0 on the Schmidt Sting Pain Index (Honey Bee 2.0, Wasp 3.0), will only wield it when their lives are under direct and immediate threat. The bees are entirely solitary, and there is no co-operation between neighbouring females – all dwellers in a bee city! Mining Bees are extremely beneficial to the garden. They pollinate many different types of plant, and their burrowing does not harm vegetation and may help to aerate the soil. Simon Morris Find out more about Mining Bees on www.bwars.com