Weil bees in the City

‘You don’t need a hive on your office roof to help bees’

When Weil law firm approached Urban Bees seven years ago to find out how it could best help bees, we recommended that its south-facing terrace eight floors above Fetter Lane could provide an oasis for solitary bees, which are important, but often forgotten pollinators.

Urban Bees worked closely with the Weil gardener, Matt Bell, advising on flowers, shrubs and herbs to provide these wild bees with nutritious pollen and nectar from early spring to late summer. Then we installed bee hotels, thanks to the support of Margaret Lloyd, Weil Facilities Services Director, to provide safe nesting sites for solitary Red mason bees. These docile wild bees check into the hollow tubes contained in the cylinders and lay their eggs in early spring. See video here

Since then staff have taken part in Urban Bees’ bee safaris on the terrace where they have identified different bee species on the flowers, learned how they can help bees at home and have made ‘bee hotels’ to put up in their own garden.

And every summer, 30 pupils from Friars Primary School in Southwark – where Weil staff volunteer – visit the office to go on a bee safari with Urban Bees’ Alison Benjamin (pictured below) and a bee spotter guide. Alison also shows them how to make bee hotels to take home. Thanks to Sue Cook, Pro Bono & Corporate Responsibility Assistant, and Sarah Chase, Director of Research Services, for their help organising the school visit.

In 2022, Urban Bees added a bee observation box with removable panels (pictured below) to allow pupils and staff to be able to see the life cycle of the Red mason bees from egg, to larvae eating pollen, spinning a cocoon to pupate and become an adult bee the following spring.

“Urban Bees’ entertaining and practical lunchtime sessions about how to help bees have proved extremely popular with our employees at all levels of the firm. It’s been a fantastic way to engage employees in sustainability issues. Employees appreciate why Weil has transformed its roof terrace to provide food and lodging for wild bees. And pupils from one of our partner primary schools have come into the office to make bee hotels, gone on a rooftop bee safari with Alison Benjamin at Urban Bees and witnessed the life cycle of the bees. It’s an experience they say they’ll never forget!” Robert Powell, Head of Pro Bono & CSR

In 2023, pollinator surveys on the Weil terrace over the summer recorded seven different species of bee;

  • Early bumblebee (Bombus pratorum) on thyme
  • Common carder bee (Bombus pascuorum) on St John’s wort (Hypericom)
  • 2 x Yellow-face bees (Hylaeus) – a male (pictured below middle) and female Common yellow-face (Hylaeus communis) flying around the fennel
  • 2 x furrow bees (pictured below left) – (Lasioglossum smeathmanellum) on hebe
  • Male leafcutter bee (Megachile centuncularis) on hebe.
  • Buff-tailed bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) on Jasmin and fennel
  • Honeybees on Buddleia, Jasmin and thyme.

The terrace scored an impressive 17/20 for providing habitat for pollinators. Surveyors commented:

“A very good diversity and abundance of plants for forage and lifecycle stages.”

 “There are three small bee hotels at the site which are mostly occupied.”

Dr. Konstantinos Tsiolis, leader of the Pollinating London Together surveys, (pictured above) hopes the Weil terrace could be an example for other City companies to follow.

 “It just goes to show how a small terrace in the City 8 storeys up that is used for entertaining clients in the summer can also be a haven for many species of wild bees by planting a diverse range of bee-friendly plants that are attractive to people and bees throughout the year”, he says.

More on the Pollinating Together 2023 Habitats Survey here.

In 2024, PLT will conduct more surveys, Urban Bees will run more workshops for pupils and hopefully staff too, and continue to provide a haven for bees in the City without honeybee hives.

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