The secret life of bees

PUBLISHED: 12:24 25 June 2020 | UPDATED: 11:37 26 June 2020

Bees are vital pollinators and are being helped by Norwich-based Bee Saviour Behaviour

Bees are vital pollinators and are being helped by Norwich-based Bee Saviour Behaviour

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While human hotels have been almost empty, bee hotels are buzzing - partly thanks to a project launched in Norwich

A bee hotelA bee hotel

Dan Harris of Bee Saviour Behaviour said: “We were blown away by the response, from Norfolk residents primarily, and people as far afield as America, Australia and Japan.

“Bee populations are in a very worrying decline but usefully bees are one of the pieces of urban wildlife that are still present in every neighbourhood.”

Bee Saviour Behaviour should have been showcasing its work at a prestigious science exhibition in London this summer. Its citizen science project to research what kind of bee hotels work best was due to be unveiled at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition. The event has been postponed, but the project, run with the Earlham Institute, on the Norwich Research Park, is continuing.

Peering into bee hotel rooms and observing guests’ behaviour is just one way Bee Saviour Behaviour is asking people to help bees - particularly wild bees such as bumblebees and solitary bees. “Wild bees can get overlooked and factors that locally might be impacting populations may be missed because they don’t have keepers,” said Dan. “Wild bees are so interesting and diverse. There are around 25 bumblebee species and over 250 solitary bee species in the UK so there’s little chance of getting bored of them.

Dan Harris, Founder of Bee Saviour BehaviourDan Harris, Founder of Bee Saviour Behaviour

“I became interested in bees soon after I moved to Norwich and started really noticing the lack of urban wildlife. I then realised that one piece of urban wildlife in my neighbourhood and garden was bees. So I slowly became fascinated with them while time spent observing them was a tonic to my mental health.”

If you have a bee hotel there are five simple questions Bee Saviour Behaviour is asking. “This research into the secret lives of bee hotels is really important as we plan campaigns, workshops and online resources to ensure people are getting the most out of their bee hotels, or are buying the right bee hotels if they don’t yet have them,” said Dan.

“We will be holding bee hotel workshops across Norfolk again but until then the results and findings will be published in videos, infographics and online posts.”

Dr Wilfried Haerty of the Earlham Institute said: “The health of bees and other pollinators is essential - both for the food we take for granted and for maintaining stable ecosystems. The information we get from this survey could massively help researchers.”

The group also encourage people to carry a Bee Saviour Card. Dan said bees have a very fast metabolism and in urban areas can become stranded and exhausted between flowers.

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“The Bee Saviour Card gives you a tiny drop of sugar solution in your wallet to revive that bee and send it on its way,” he said. “That moment of connection when reviving a bee is powerful.”

The Bee Saviour card is available on Etsy, and will eventually be sold in Norfolk shops too. The Norfolk-based not-for-profit social enterprise now has card-carrying bee saviour citizens in 20 countries from Finland to Honalulu.

In Norfolk Dan wants to help people create patches and corridors of bee-friendly land throughout urban areas, and to stop using damaging chemicals.

“It’s also worth saying that as a county we need to tackle our use of neonicotinoids and glyphosates” he said. “The River Wensum and the River Waveney have unacceptable levels of neonicotinoids and these chemicals have been shown to seriously damage bee populations. So we’re very conscious that education around use of chemicals in gardens is important for us to be doing locally.”

Dan is due to talk at this year’s TEDxNorwichED event and this autumn Bee Saviour Behaviour will launch a new citizen science project tracking the arrival of the ivy bee in Britain.

Bee Saviour Behaviour’s three simple ‘do nothing’ steps to help bees:


1: Leave the dandelions in your lawn. Bees and other pollinators love them.

2: Leave a wild unmown patch in your garden. The shelter of long grass is important for wildlife.

3: Leave the chemicals on the shelf, particularly those with neonicotinoids and glyphosate.

For more information, including the bee hotel survey and how to choose, place or build a bee hotel, visit saviourbees.co.uk

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