A guide to the role trees play in supporting bees by providing food and habitat.
Most of us know that bees are incredible, and that they are an integral player in many ecosystems. Many trees are wind-pollinated, so would technically be able to survive without bees, however some species such as fruit trees rely (some exclusively) on bees for pollination. So that explains why some trees require bees to pollinate them, but did you know that the bees also need the trees? They provide habitat for some species, as well as a rich source of both pollen and nectar for feeding.
Saving pollinators goes hand in hand with saving forests. Threats to plants and woodlands share parallels to threats to bees. The two populations have a mutual relationship which benefit one another. Trees are worth saving – save the trees, save the bees, and vice versa.
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Trees for habitat –
Trees are home to many species and therefore, deforestation has a direct effect on the number of bees in existence. An increase in urban projects such as housing and business developments, has resulted in the loss of mass areas of woodland. Some species, such as the Tree bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum), rely on these environments to live. Some nest in holes in trees, and under bark. Without these havens, they struggle to survive.
Photo by Santiago Esquivel on Unsplash
Trees for food –
Some species of bee store enough food for winter (e.g. honey bees store honey to feed the colony), but come spring, they need to replenish their stocks. There are few flowers in bloom during the first few months of the year, so early flowering trees are essential for hungry bees. Willow is a particularly important food source for early rising bumblebee queens.
Apple, wild cherry, willow and hazel are also great for providing sustenance, and flower early in the season. They provide masses of flowers in one place, so can support a large number of them.
Photo by Dejan Zakic on Unsplash
- Crab Apple
- Field Maple
- Horse Chestnut
How to counteract the loss of ancient woodlands –
If you have a garden or courtyard, make sure to include spring flowering trees/shrubs in your design. Even if you have a small garden, you can still accomodate a tree. Keep them compact by growing in a container, and donate to a friend if they eventually become too large.
- Cherry trees e.g. Prunus ‘Ruby’.
- Apple trees e.g. Malus ‘Evereste’
- Cercis e.g. ’Forest Pansy’
- Amelanchier e.g. ’Ballerina’
- Sorbus e.g. ’Autumn Spire’
Provide alternative shelter and habitat.
Make an insect hotel from housing bundled sticks, bamboo canes and holes drilled in wood (inside a box/crate/container on its side). Hang it up quite high, and it will be full of nesting and hibernating bees in no time. Place it in a sunny, south-facing, sheltered spot.
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Let’s do everything we can to help these wonderful flying powerhouses, before we lose them forever.
Header photo by Max Saeling on Unsplash