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Attracting bees to nest in your garden

I've been trying for a few years to attract bees to nest in my garden. I get plenty of visitors, but no residents, so I've tried harder this year to make by garden more attractive for prospecting queen bees.

Queen bumblebees will look for nests in different places, often depending on the species. For example, the Tree bumblebee, Bombus hypnorum, almost always nests above ground in bird boxes and lofts. But most other bumblebees will nest in tussocks of grass, thick moss (like the Common carder bee, pictured left), or cavities under paving slabs, sheds and decking. They basically want a cavity that is large enough to accommodate a growing nest, which is well-drained and hidden from predators.

So to go about making my garden more attractive, I've had to do some messing-up. I live in a rented house, and my landlord has been nice enough to allow me to take over the gardening from the landscaping company he used to pay. When I first moved in, the garden was very neat, and much too tidy for my liking. The hedges were all cut into squares or rectangles, and the whole garden could be seen in one glance, and there were no quiet, hidden places where bees could nest.

So when I was pruning the shrubs last autumn, I decided to leave a lot of the cuttings in the corners of the gardens. These will have provided places for wildlife to live over winter, and should now make the place more inviting for queen bees. In the corners I also let the vegetation grow, and don't bother removing any of the weeds unless they are especially pernicious. Even if I don't get any nests, I'm still more than happy to watch the bumblebee visitors come to my garden.

If you do decide to make some nesting sites (and there is information on how to do so on our website - click here), here's the secret to attracting bees: put some mouse bedding in it. Bumblebees will naturally nest in abandoned rodent nests, and can 'smell' mice. Research has shown that artificial nest sites with mouse bedding inside are much more likely to be taken up by queen bees. You can use any mouse bedding, including that from wild mosue nests or pet mice.

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