29 April 2012

Mason Bee House - I Do DIY

I have a question for those of us who were around in the 1970’s. Don’t be coy; I know you’re out there! Think back to the state of your dad’s (or husband’s) car when he had driven miles to your holiday destination. It was covered in dead insects wasn’t it? Sometimes the windscreen wipers had to be employed to get rid of them. Now think about the state of the front of your own car when you’ve been a distance down the motorway ... still clean? Hardly any insects?

Over the last couple of years I’ve been worried about the very obvious lack of insects. There really aren’t as many bluebottles and daddy longlegs are there? Some blame can be put on industrial agriculture, but surely the main damage is pollution from cars. Obviously I am no expert but in the 1960s and 70s weren’t the insecticides used more deadly than now? It seems to me as a casual observer the number of cars and road miles have increased incredibly over the last 40 years (good grief, I’m old) and it is this that must be responsible for the decline in insect numbers. And sadly NO ONE is going to limit car use. If I’m right insects will have to wait until we are using electric cars, or we run out of oil before they get back to previous population densities. Not some time soon, I think.

So, with this observation added to my list of ‘things to worry about’ I’ve taken a greater interest in the insects that visit my plot of Mancunian ground.

With the successful return of ‘my’ Tawny Mining bees, and the exciting visit from the Naomi Campbell of the wasp world I want to do more to encourage bees and flies and other edible (birdwise) insects. The other night (while eating an Aero and sipping a rather nice Rosé) I had a quick chat with ‘@DayMoonRoseDawn’ on Twitter, who has uploaded this impressive film onto YouTube, about providing suitable nesting sites for solitary mason bees. This page on The Pollinator Garden was also useful.

Here is my version. It’s made from florist’s oasis, holed with a pencil, and kept dry in a draw from the desk it is sitting on. The thing beside it is an ‘insect hotel’ that until I knew better was left mouldering in entirely the wrong place.

Although I’m very pleased with myself for being a responsible wildlife gardener and for doing a little light DIY, I have low expectations for any occupancy. Some spiders may take notice, but if mason bees do turn up ... goodness it would be like winning £50 on the lottery. Bet it’s the decaying bamboo sticks that get most visits.

UPDATE: the weather today is so outrageously bad – think Wuthering Heights – I’ve had to take the bee house away to stop it flying off into the garden. The poor bees will have to huddle where they are until the sun comes out.