Salty Sam’s Fun Blog for Children

Number 456

Solitary Bees


Hello Everyone



Auntie Alice’s honey bee hives are doing really well and she had a huge harvest this year.


She now has seven hives and tends to them regularly.


There are various things she has to do to prepare her hives for winter; like make the entrances smaller to prevent animals crawling inside and she puts some insulation around the hives before the weather gets bitterly cold too.


There are many thousands of species of bees around the world.  There are only 9 species of honey bee in the world.


They produce honey, which is a wonder food.  lt has antifungal and antibiotic properties.  lt has different vitamins and minerals.  lt is a good remedy for sore throats, coughs and colds. 


*Honey is not suitable for humans who are under one year old.


We all know what honey bees look like; some are more golden and the native ones are blacker.


We all know what bumble bees look like too because they are so round and fluffy-looking.  They have long tongues that can get into bugle-shaped flowers like primroses and bluebells.


But there are also lots of bees called solitary bees and of course as their name suggests they spend most of their lives alone. They don’t have colonies or queens.  They don’t make honey or wax to cover honey comb.


There are about 270 species of bee in the UK and only one of them is the honey bee that lives in large colonies.  There are 24 species of bumble bee.


That means that we have just less than 250 species of solitary bees.  They live in the wild.  A lot of them are really small and difficult to notice.


They are very unlikely to sting you or your pets.  They don’t bother to guard and protect their nests like honey bees do.


So the majority of the bees we have (about 90%) are solitary bees.


They are enormously valuable to farmers and gardeners and also nature because they are good pollinators.


What does this mean exactly?


Well, they work tirelessly moving from flower to flower collecting food to eat – but at the same time pollen rubs off onto their bodies and is transferred from flower to flower to create fertilization – that means the flowers start to turn into seeds.


The flowers want to turn into seeds because the seeds will grow into new plants and ensure survival of their species.


Sometimes of course, the flower turns into a fruit like an apple or orange or tomato or courgette and the seeds are inside the flesh of the fruit.


So pollinators, like for example bees, hoverflies and wasps, are enormously important in helping our food to grow.


But the use of chemicals in the environment has had a terrible effect on these bees; and now 10% of our wild bees are facing extinction.


Solitary bees all make nests in their own way.


So, about 70% of them make tunnel nests underground, these are called mining bees, but many are cavity nesting bees which mean that they dig out little holes in dead trees where the wood will be very soft or they will utilize dried-up, hollow stems of plants.


There is one small, blue one that chews out the centre of blackberry stems and builds a nest inside where they can also hibernate over the winter.


Three species live in discarded snail shells.


The tunnelling kind of bee finds road and railway embankments useful places to nest, river banks too of course and the base of any hedge that is growing out of an earth embankment.  There are man-made constructions you can make in the garden that they can use too.  They look like a bit like a circle of stiff net that you fill with soil.


A quarter of solitary bees are what is called cuckoo species so they move into nests made by other bees.


Children can do a lot to help bees.


They can plant flowers that the bees like to feed from.  Bees like the kind of flat flowers that have centres they can get to easily.  l have told you about these before.


Daisies and pea flowers are good flowers for solitary bees.


Children can provide material that the bees can use to build their nests.


They can also put up bee hotels – with the help of an adult.


Bee hotels are a really good substitute for the places solitary bees would find in the wild.  The more habitats are lost and the more we keep really tidy gardens the more difficulty wild bees will have difficulty finding a suitable place to live.


A solitary bee will need a warm, dry, safe and clean space to lay her eggs and the tubes you get in a bee hotel will be a perfect place.


The best hotels to buy are the ones that come apart so that you can give them a good wash each year and keep them free from parasites.


You could, instead, buy tubes that are made specially for making bee hotels and replace the inner portion every year. They are about 10-15cm long.  You will have to find a sturdy wooden box that you can pack these tubes tightly into.


Otherwise, you can use bamboo canes to pack your box.  When they are cut to size the ends should be sanded to get rid of sharp splinters.


The bamboo tubes will be different diameters which is good because different sizes of tube will suit different bees.


Don’t use glass or plastic tubes because these collect damp condensation inside.


Remember that there must be a back wall to the box and the tubes must have a sealed end at the base as well.


The box must be secured to a south-facing wall at least a metre above the ground.  The box should not shift in heavy rain or strong wind.  You don’t want the baby bees rolling around inside!


And watch out for webs on the box because you don’t want spiders to get in and make a meal out of the eggs or the larva hatching out of them.


When the winter comes, put the hotel into an unheated shed to give it extra protection and keep it dry.


Put a note into your diary that in March you can put the hotel up again with new, fresh tubes inside it.


And what do you do with the old tubes?


Well, that is where the magic happens!


Pile them up them on a plate on a table or flat surface outside – in a place that no cat, dog, fox or badger can disturb them.


Then cover them with a very large terracotta flower pot with a hole in the bottom.  You need to put a bit of broken pot or something that will not block the little hole up but will keep the rain from getting in on top.


ln the warmth of the spring and early summer days, the bees will break out of their tubes in safety and when they are ready, they will emerge into the daylight through the top in the base of the pot – which is of course actually now at the top because the flower pot is upside-down.


They will fly away to start their life pollinating the flowers.


A red mason bee will pollinate 120 times more flowers than a worker honey bee.


This is because they do not have pollen baskets on their legs like honey bees do and so when they collect from one flower and fly off to another, the pollen will fall off or brush off onto other flowers.


They are very important for pollinating apple, pear and plum trees.


Different types of bee use different materials to construct their nests.


They deposit a supply of nectar and pollen in a little pile in the tube and then lay an egg on top of it.  This individual supply of food will feed the larva when it hatches.  The mother builds a wall in front of the egg creating a warm, little chamber.  She works her way back up the tube towards the entrance; building food piles, laying eggs and sealing each chamber up with a wall until the tube is full of babies.  Then the entrance to the tube is sealed up too.


The female babies are at the back and the males are at the front.  Each bee will lay about 20-30 eggs in the tubes they have worked hard to prepare.


lf you get a hotel with see-through walls at the side, you will be able to see exactly how the bees do this.


There are three main species of bee that you are likely to get come and live in your hotel.


Red mason bees start building nests in spring.  They use mud that they collect from the sides of puddles or ponds with earth sides to line their nests.  They need to build little walls to protect their babies from predators and pests.


They have gingery-red hair and the females have small horns on their head.


Leaf cutter bees build their nest in tubes in the same way as the red mason bees but they build their nests in summer and use sections of a soft leaf or petal to build their walls.


They have a broad head and large mandibles that they use for cutting leaves.


Wool carder bees use fine plant hairs to build their nests.  They can weave these materials together. They have distinctive yellow and black markings on their flattened abdomen.


Plants that are going to appeal to wool carder bees are lamb’s ears.  These plants have lovely velvety leaves and can produce pink and purple flowers in late summer.


When the young hatch they eat their food and grow and develop until they have the ability to cut their way through the walls and fly out into the world.


Then the life cycle can start again.


So when you are making your Christmas List for Santa – you may now want to put a bee hotel on it to give him plenty of time to find you one for your garden or balcony.



lf you like my blog, please support it by telling all your friends and followers about it.


Thank you!


And see you again next Fun Friday!


Love and kisses



Salty Sam





Bill and Bob’s Joke of the Weekjokejoke


Bob:  What are the quietest bees in the garden?


Bill:  l don’t know – do tell me.


Bob:  lt’s the mumble bees.



Salty Sam © Christina Sinclair 2015

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Picture Gallery


Red mason bee


Leaf-cutter bee


European wool carder bee


Lamb’s ears plants




A very smart-looking bug hotel







This week, we went up to Farmer Jenkins’ farm to buy some fresh eggs and some of his wife’s lovely cheese; and got talking – as you do.

Farmer Jenkins said that after we executed Operation Muddy Hole so well; he was thinking that he could sort of extend the project into his farm.

He had mended some fencing that was getting a bit old here and there and as he did so he thought he might change the fences into hedgerows.  He could use the fencing as support for newly planted saplings.

Hedgerows don’t have to take up a lot of space away from his field but he thought they might give some protection to his livestock in cold, windy weather.

A farmer is always thinking of the welfare of his animals.  They are his business.

Farmer Jenkins thought that if he planted a few lines of hedgerows he could incorporate some trees that would grow tall and give a canopy that would protect his animals from the rain as well.

The cows used to congregate in the muddy hollow that we turned into extra woodland last winter when the weather was really windy and cold.  Now they can’t get into that place.

He wanted them to have a new place to go for shelter when the winter storms blew in from the sea.

Of course, you have to be careful what plants you put in with animals – you want to make sure they will not be poisonous to them.

He told me that he was thinking that you often see oak trees standing in fields.  Some of them are hundreds of years old.  If we don’t plant some more now, will people see these kinds of trees standing in fields in hundreds of years time?

Farmers think a lot about the land as well.

I said that I would help him with the extra work and I would round up some other people to help as well.

A lot of people in Rocky Bay like to become eco-warriors whenever the chance arises!




Farmer Jenkins said that he has heard how the number of song birds has dropped dramatically.

When his hedges become established it is his hope that they will provide high-rise housing for lots of little birds.

He said he plans to get some sacks of seeds to help them out in the winter because they may well need extra food if they can’t find enough for themselves.

Lots of people doing lots of little things to help wildlife all adds up, and I think what Farmer Jenkins is doing is going to help quite a lot!


Old man’s beard growing up into a hedge


I told Auntie Alice of Farmer Jenkins plans and she said that she could give him some oak trees that she was growing in pots. 

She had some other species that he could have as well.  He would just have to organize putting some tree guards around them when they were planted.

We have deer around here – they can browse (eat) away young trees in minutes and rabbits are just as bad!



Bill and Bob complained and said that they wanted the small saplings for their planned tree planting scheme next spring.

After the Rocky Bay Plant a Tree in 2023 Event, they wanted to organize a Plant Some More in 2024 Event.

She said not to worry. There would be enough trees for everyone!









Quick Quiz


What word fits into all these gaps?


  1. leave me –
  2. let –
  3. leave well –
  4. man does not live by bread –
  5. you go faster –








lt’s the Weekend!




So Christmas is on its way again.

You may be buying presents and wrapping presents and even making some presents too.

Isn’t it sad when there is an empty space under the tree on Boxing Day?

You could make these cushions to put under your Christmas tree to fill that empty void.

Then rest your head on them as you lie on the floor and gaze up at the lights and the sparkle with a full tummy.

All you have to do is buy a pack of patchwork fat quarters with Christmassy prints.

Fold them in half and sew a seam around three sides with the right sides of the fabric together.  Leave a 10cm/5 inch gap for stuffing.

Then turn the cushions out the right way and stuff them with washable stuffing.

Seal the gap with neat, small over-sew stitches.

Then put your cushions aside to use when the holidays arrive!



Please note that the material on this blog is for personal use and for use in classrooms only.

It is a copyright infringement and, therefore, illegal under international law to sell items made with these patterns.

Use of the toys and projects is at your own risk.

©Christina Sinclair Designs 2015sand



Quick Quiz Answers


  1. leave me alone – l want to be alone so go away please
  2. let alone – not to mention/other information outside what we are assessing/talking about
  3. leave well alone – don’t interfere with something/if it is not a problem don’t try and fix it
  4. man does not live by bread alone – you need spiritual things/human company/entertainment, etc. as well as material things
  5. you go faster alone – if you work alone you don’t have to wait for other people or consider their opinions or needs


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