Solitary bees the fine grain of our local biodiversity

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A weird, flying insect has taken up residence in a hole of our terrace stone wall. We’re always very alert, as we don’t want wasp nests, let alone “frolons”/hornets on our terrace (they’re massive, big wasps). We were wondering whether we had to fill up the hole and prevent the insect from coming back (which it did the whole time), till we had friends coming over who had more “nature” knowledge than us. “Don’t touch them, leave them, they are solitary bees!” was the answer we got. We said: “It looks nothing like a bee, more like a weirdo insect”!

But one has to admit knowledge when one encounters it. The man in question does know a lot about nature. So I started looking at pictures and yes, that “thing” on our terrace is a solitary bee. Then we discovered loads of them around our bolting cilantro plant. Again a story: we bought a tiny coriander plant, the dogs dug it up about 5 times, then it started flourishing and now it has loads of flowers and the leaves changed, looking nothing like coriander leaves and it is in that plant, they found their heaven, loads of them love the flowers.

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About 25 per cent of bees are on the list of endangered species and 90% of them are the harmless and not aggressive solitary bees. They can be 3-4mm to 15 mm long. They won’t sting you, unless you actually decide to harm them. They are cold-blooded and thus need the sun to warm them up. They live alone, not in hives, don’t swarm, but they do build honeycombs.

So best leave them alone when you do find them, as they return to their nests for many decades. Best leave those useful, pollinating insects be, most flowers depend on them to set seeds and fruit trees do too.

If you don’t have them in your garden, just drill holes in dry logs and create an artificial nesting site, a “trap nest” or a “bee condo” as they are called. Internet provides loads of tips how to create them.

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Ours are probably “Anthophora plumipes” or “Anthidium manicatum” species, as they live in our stone terrace wall. Our bees will probably stay active till mid-September.

Some of these bees show cuckoo-beviour. Those that are unable to make their own nest, lay their eggs in the nest of another bee and the larvae eat the nectar and pollen food provided by the host.

I thought another plant had nested between our coriander plant, but no, we have taken the wrong approach and left our coriander plant to flower, which we shouldn’t have! Well, we’ll now be able to pick the coriander seeds instead of coriander leaves. The name of this plant is actually derived from the Greek word for bug, as people thought that it smelt like one that had been squashed!

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The fast growing coriander plant can be used completely: the leaves are excellent in many dishes with their spicy flavour, the root is best chopped up in stews or dishes that require more cooking and the seeds are great in sweet and savory dishes.

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The plant itself decides, depending on the weather turning colder or hotter, to bold into more seeds. Then again, we love those flowers and find them beautiful thriving on our terrace, we are that kind of crazy people! I don’t mind learning and as we cook a lot of Indian dishes, it’s worth wile to learn from this experience and know how to harvest the seeds!

There is so much to discover and marvel at, that is one of the best treasures ever, of living here amidst nature. Look at this lovely lizzard saying hello:

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Bee-happy

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