With the world shut down around us the uplifting role that wildlife plays in our lives becomes more vital than ever. So, for my own sanity as much as anything, I’m going to keep a daily diary of what I find around my garden. Photograph the wildlife you can see from your window or in your garden and post your pictures on the ‘Sussex Wildlife Trust Nature Table’ page.
Five weeks! Thirty days ago I filmed a quick guided tour of the garden (see it here). I mentioned that back in 2016, when David Bowie died I went into the garden with the inadvisable combination of a drill and a bottle of wine and made a bee hotel in his honour. I'm not sure what inspired me to commemorate Bowie with a bee hotel. I can't really think of any link between David Bowie and bees (apart from this) . (And Kevin just messaged to say that I could also claim 'Absolute Bee-ginners' as a link - but that's really stretching it).
I was sad to read yesterday that Matthew Seligman, who played bass for Bowie at Live Aid, died from Coronavirus over the weekend. Matthew played bass in one of my favourite bands - The Soft Boys (check out 'Queen of Eyes' here). And The Soft Boys' great debut album does have a link to today's bee-related diary.
So yesterday, to commemorate Matthew Seligman, I was back out in the garden with my drill. I didn't have a bottle of wine this time as I didn't want to put any more pressure on Brighton's A&E department.
I recently read a blog by my colleague Barry Yates (who's just celebrated 36 years working at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, read about him here). We know Barry, of course, as the guy who beats us all in the Back Garden Bird Race each week from his 'unfair' garden next to Rye Harbour. But he's also pretty nifty with a drill.
Barry's blog was encouraging people to make a bee hotel in their garden. Nip over and read Barry's inspiring blog here. There are some incredible slow-motion clips of bees filmed by Barry.
When most of us think of bees we think of Honey Bees (which live in hives) and the chunky bumblebees (which also live in hectic colonies). But most of the bees in Britain go it alone and live a solitary existence. In fact in Britain we have around 270 bee species and about 250 of them are solitary bees. The solitary bees may vary in size but they all play an important role for us pollinating our plants. Many species make their own homes in holes in the ground but some use old beetle holes in wood - and you can help them by replicating these holey homes with a bee hotel. It's easy to make a bee hotel and it's a small improvement you can make in your garden or windowsill which will really help your local pollinators.
(Barry's bee hotel in Rye. I bet he has more species of bee than me as well)
(Oh, and I must note here that I can't actually say 'bee hotel' without singing it in the crooning style of Chris Isaak's 'Blue Hotel'. And why are they called 'bee hotels' anyway? Surely 'bee B&B' would be better).
I had some chunks of wood lying about (from another recent garden 'project' I'll tell you about another day) and, following Barry's advice, drilled them full of holes of different sizes.
But I didn't stop there. In Barry's blog he also suggested "You could also drill holes into fence posts or other wood in a sunny location". So I kind of went a little bit crazy with the drill. I had some logs lying around in the garage and I dug some holes and erected them in the sunniest corner of the garden and then attacked them with the drill, like some mad dentist.
I'm actually quite impressed with my hotel construction work. I'll keep you posted when the local bees start to check in. At the end of the afternoon (when all sharp electrical appliances were safely stowed away) I raised a glass of tequila to Matthew Seligman of The Soft Boys. I just hope that I don't have to put up any more bee hotels because of this pandemic.
If you're looking for a little project that can help your local wildlife, read Barry's blog here for details on how to make a simple bee hotel.
So that's been five weeks. Five long weeks. Feels more like five years to me.
And if that's not a blatant link into one more David Bowie song then I don't know what is. (here)