Transforming Chelsea Creek into a wild bee haven

In June we were contacted by St George’s, developers of the Chelsea Creek housing development in SW6. They wanted a bee hive located on a small site backing onto the Imperial Wharf Overground station.

We suggested that instead of a hive, we clear the site and turn it into a haven for wild bees and other pollinators and improve biodiversity.

We audited the 10m x 10m site to assess it’s current suitability. We used 7 measures:

  1. Shelter
  2. Thermoregulation (provide sunny spots where bees can warm up to fly) 
  3. Year-round nectar sources
  4. Year-round pollen sources
  5. Mating habitat
  6. Nest sites
  7. Nesting material for some bees.

The dense thicket of brambles, buddleia (over head height) and laurel bushes scored very low. We came up with a plan for how the site could meet all the above requirements.

St George’s gave us the go ahead and in July we began the clearance.

It was hard work, but after a couple of days we made headway and started piling up the green waste. I must admit I find it hard cutting down brambles and buddleia when they do provide such great bee food at certain times of the year, but there was plenty left on an adjacent site and it will soon grow back if we don’t keep it in check. And without letting more light into the site, other flowers that can provide forage in early spring and summer won’t stand a chance.

The next step was to introduce some overwintering sites for queen bumblebees and some nesting sites for solitary bees.

I piled up twigs for whatever insects may find them useful, while Brian started to construct log houses. The logs are drilled with different diameter holes from 3mm – 8mm for a variety of cavity-nesting bees. Resin bees, yellow-faced bees and scissor bees will use the smaller holes. We also installed seven bee hotels on a stand a metre off the ground placed in a sunny position. These are for mason bees and leafcutters to check into next spring and summer to lay their eggs. Brian made all the stands from recycled bits of wood, and the log house boxes are old recycled hives.

This is just the beginning. We will be creating nesting sites for bees that like to burrow into sand and those that prefer piles of bare earth. We’ll be providing aggregate that some solitary bees need to plug their nests and blue tit bird boxes that the Tree bumblebee may occupy after the chicks have fledged next year. And we’ll leave some upturned flower pots around for bumblebees that nest underground, like buff-tailed and white-tailed bumblebees, and some piles of grass and leaves undisturbed for carder bees.

And of course over the next few months we’ll be planting the best flowers for providing year-found forage and nesting materials.

It may not look much at the moment, but watch this space…

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