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Bees visit flowers to collect nectar and pollen, which they use as food for themselves and the larvae in their hives or nests. By moving from flower to flower, they are vital pollinators of many garden and wild flowers. Insect pollination which can be carried out by any insect that visits flowers including many flies, social and solitary wasps, beetles, butterflies and moths, is essential for the cropping of most fruits and some vegetables.
BUff-Tailed Bumblebee on a Scabiosa flower Credit RHS/ Andrew Halstead
Bees are insects in the order Hymenoptera. There over 250 species in Britain, they feed largely on nectar and pollen and are some of the most familiar of the 1000’s of pollinating insects found in Britain. British bees can generally be divided into three groups.
There have been about 26 species recorded in Britain, but some are now extinct or have a very restricted distribution. At peak strength in summer, a bumblebee nest will have between 50 and 400 worker bees.
More information on bumblebees is available from the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.
There are more than 260 species of solitary bee in Britain.
More information on solitary bees along with information on wasps and ants can be found from the Bees Wasps and Ants Recording Society (BWARS).
This is a social bee that lives in colonies of up to 60,000 and is the insect that produces honey. Most colonies are maintained by beekeepers.
Thanks to the rich diversity of plants and flowers, gardens are some of the best habitats for pollinators. There is always space though for more pollinators in our gardens.
The best ways to encourage bees and other pollinators into your garden is by providing nectar- and pollen-rich flowers throughout the year. Creating suitable nest sites in your garden is another excellent way to provide for them.
Here’s how you can do more to support pollinators in your garden, outside space or community:
Find out more about how gardeners can help bees and other pollinators.
Check out our "Helping our bees" blog.
Getting stung by bees in your garden is unlikely, as long as you treat bees with respect.
All female bees have stings, but solitary bees are not at all aggressive and only use their stings in self-defence if roughly handled.
Similarly bumblebees and honeybees are unlikely to sting while they are going about their business of collecting nectar and pollen if they are left alone. Avoid disturbing bumblebee nests or standing too close to a bee hive.
Bats in your garden
Bees Needs: Defra initiative
Birds in your garden
Bumblebee Conservation Trust
Butterflies in your garden
Helping our bees video and blog
How gardeners can help our declining bees and other pollinators
Leaf cutting bees
Moths in your garden
Make a bee hotel
National Pollinator Strategy
Native or non-native: planting for pollinators
Pollinators: decline in numbers
RHS Plants for Pollinator plant lists
RHS Plants for Bugs research: pollinator findings
The British Beekeepers' association
Wasps (social) and hornets
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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.