A new home for our solitary friends

A highlight of our recent holiday in Cornwall was a visit to design company Green & Blue in Perranporth. As we pulled up in front of the studio, Gavin Christman, the company’s co-founder, had just finished casting a batch of Bee Bricks, an innovative new product that last week scooped the public vote in the Soil Association’s annual innovation awards.

Talking to Gavin revealed his concern about the demise of the UK’s bee populations, and a desire to do something to help. And it is this that led him to develop a man-made nest for solitary bees; a response to the destruction of natural habitats that threatens the survival of these fascinating and valuable creatures. Made of polished cast concrete his Bee Brick is designed for use in construction projects, but also works well as a rather stylish stand alone feature in gardens or allotments.

We returned home with a Bee Brick to try, and have been spending some time thinking about where to site it.  The best sites for solitary bee nest boxes are sheltered spots that face south-east or south-west. With a south to south-westerly facing garden we have plenty of options to explore, and the brick’s design means it really can be placed wherever you choose with no need to fix it in place.

It sits happily on top of the wooden pergola that runs up one side of the garden as a support for climbing roses and clematis. Tawny mining bees have nested in the long border here, so it’s possible that other types of solitary bee might also investigate this part of the garden as a potential nesting site if suitable holes are available.

Another option is to place it near our wall-mounted hose reel; the screw holes in its green plastic casing having already been used as nesting tubes by red mason bees.

Although too late to incorporate into all the building work that happened here at the House, we could instead build a stand alone structure using left over bricks and roof tiles. Inspired by our visit to the Lost Gardens of Heligan, and the huge bug hotel we saw there, we could add natural materials, such as the pine cones that drop from our neighbour’s tree, to create a shelter for a range of beneficial insects; assuming, of course, the bees won’t object to having a few well-behaved neighbours.

The Bee Brick even fits neatly on a small windowsill next to the wall where red mason bees frequently sun themselves in the spring. Siting the brick here has the benefit of being at perhaps a more suitable height and in a more sheltered position than on top of the pergola.

Fortunately the bees won’t be in search of suitable nesting sites until March so there is still plenty of time to decide.

Do visit again in the Spring to find out what our solitary friends think of their new home. In the meantime, you can find out more about some of the solitary bees that visit our garden here.

Green&Blue kindly sponsored this post by providing a Bee Brick for us to try. 

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