Posted 14th May 2018
The Great British Bee Count (17 May - 30 June) raises awareness to our dwindling bee populations, and the threats they face
To take part couldn't be easier - all you need to do is download the free app and discover some of the most beautiful bee-friendly spots in the UK.
Here, we take at some of the stunning landscapes you can take the chance to visit.
1 Kingcombe Meadows, Dorset
Amidst the ancient green lanes and winding rivers, Kingcombe Meadows is a striking tract of unspoilt countryside that is nestled in the valley of the River Hooke, some ten miles from Dorchester. The meadows are cared for by Dorset Wildlife Trust, using traditional farming methods. This means cows and sheep graze the land which is left untouched by artificial fertilisers, herbicides or pesticides, and as a result, it's a haven for several beautiful wildflowers, such as lady's mantle, devil's bit scabious and knapweed. The glorious diversity of plant life means it is a buzzing meadow by the time summer rolls around. It's the ideal place for spotting the Common carder bee in its gingery coat, or the distinctive Red-tailed bumblebee, which will visit a variety of different flowers.
Image courtesy of Plantlife
2 The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall
The inspiring story of Heligan's truly secret gardens continue. Rescued from obscurity in the 1990s, the 200-acre estate has been carefully managed for wildlife, so by the time summer comes around, it will be buzzing. Visit the insect hotel on the Georgian Ride, hidden in the ancient woodlands - this is the perfect spot to see solitary bees.
The Wildflower meadows on the estate have been designed to encourage the less common species - such as the Long-horned bee, a Cornish resident which is particularly fond of clover, kidney vetch and bird's-foot trefoil. You'll also be able to discover the world of a particularly Cornish honeybee too, at the specially created observation hive at Heligan. The B4 project is aiming to create conditions for the native Black honeybee queens to thrive.
3 RHS Wisley, Surrey
The fruit, vegetable and herb gardens will be buzzing by midsummer. The flowers of gooseberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants and strawberries will attract bees, and are fabulous pollinators of all these fruits. You may also be lucky enough to see the Tree bumblebee - first recorded in the UK in 2001, it has a distinctive ginger, black and white outfit.
The Wisley roses and wisteria could reveal the distinctive crescent-shaped mark of a Leafcutter bee. This bee will line its nest with leaf pieces it removes which will not bother the plants. The blossoms in Wisley's orchard may have ended by May, but by then, the bees will have done their work, pollinating 1,300 different varieties of apples, pears and plums. The disease-resistant varieties of apple are managed organically, and interplanted with cornfield annuals, as a way of attracting bees and other pollinating insects.
4 Beningbrough Hall, Yorkshire
Taking a short trip out of York will allow you to discover the baroque grandeur of Beningbrough Hall and it’s amazing gardens. The beautifully restored walled kitchen garden extends to two acres; with the fruit collection holding over 50 varieties of apple and pear. Keep your eyes peeled for the wonderful pear arch, which is made up of 20 different trees and was originally planted in the 1890s. The garden is specifically managed for wildlife, with the flower gardens bursting with nectar-filled blossoms. This makes it the perfect place for a variety of different bees, which include the Garden bumblebee and the Early bumblebee, which has a particular penchant for pollinating raspberries.
5 Brogdale National Collections, Kent
You can discover apples from practically every single county in Britain at Brogdale, along with pears, cherries, plums, quinces, medlars and nuts. The orchards will hold a staggering 2,200 different varieties of apple alone, with a new addition this year being Brogdale's wildlife garden, which is especially good for bees and other pollinating insects. The meadow area is full of nectar-filled flowers, providing wonderful food for the bees that pollinate the fruit trees, and help the orchard's productivity. Apple trees will particularly rely on bees for pollination, with plants in the new garden having been carefully selected to provide nectar and pollen throughout the year - there are also new nesting areas. The Red mason bee is likely to be in residence here, as they are particularly good at pollinating apple trees, and are also partial to a good bee hotel.
6 White Park Bay, County Antrim, Northern Ireland
The beautiful white arc of sand will connect two headlands in this secluded location on the North Antrim coast. It is reported that the grains of sand are so clean and smooth that the beach will 'sing' in the wind. Ancient and protected dunes will make wildlife homes here, and this includes the Northern colletes bee. The rare bee (which can also be found on the stunning flower-rich machair of the Western Isles in Scotland, which emerge in mid-June. It likes visiting plants in the wild carrot and parsley family, and also sups nectar from the white clover and bird's-foot trefoil. Looking amongst the purple, white and yellow wildflowers of the coastal grasses and dunes is likely to reveal a less rare resident, for instance the Buff-tailed bumblebee.
Image courtesy of RHS / Sarah Cuttle
7 The Hive at Kew Gardens, Richmond, London
The Hive is now permanently installed at Kew, and is a sensory experience which has been inspired by the incredible activity of honeybee colonies. The lights and sounds you see and hear within this 17-metre tall aluminium construction are triggered by the vibrations that bees make in a real beehive at Kew, with scientists discovering that bees rely on vibrations to communicate with each other.
The wonderful wildflower meadow surrounding The Hive is an attraction for bumblebees and solitary bees, as well as honeybees. Views from the installation will take in the magnificence of the Great Broad Walk flower borders, where careful planting will encourage a wide variety of bees to visit. Lok out for White-tailed and Red-tailed bumblebees on the echinacea flowers, in amongst a wide variety of sages, and enjoying the sneezeweed. You may be lucky enough to spot the wool carder bees too, which may be patrolling near the lamb's ears (Stachys) - females will collect the fine hairs from the leaves of these plants as a way of lining their nests.
8 National Botanic Garden of Wales and Waun Las National Nature Reserve, Carmarthenshire
Important work is being conducted by the science team at the National Botanic Garden of Wales as part of the action plan for pollinators being carried out by the Welsh government. The work here is looking into what we can do to help our solitary bees, bumblebees, honeybees and hoverflies, with a walk around this delightful garden revealing a few different species. The female Hairy-footed flower bee is a particularly distinctive sight - black with gingery hind legs. These bees particularly love lungwort (Pulmonaria) flowers, so keep your eyes peeled along the herbaceous borders.
9 Chobham Common, Surrey
During May and June, there will be a sweet smell as the vibrant gorse greets you. The impressive lowland heath is the largest National Nature Reserve in South East England, and is a special place for all sorts of wildlife. Amazingly, there have been 400 different species of bee and wasp observed here, making it one of the premier spots in the UK to do a Great British Bee Count - be ready to see lots of common bees and also some of the more unusual ones.
Some bees will like to nest in the dry sand, which is easier to dig than hard ground. Sunny patches of earth will be a good place to spot cold-blooded bees warming their wings up, as they prepare to fly. The Heather colletes bee and the Heather mining bee live here, as do rarer species that are particularly fond of the sandy heathland habitat, including the Southern bronze furrow bee - this is also known as the confusing furrow bee, as it's one that is best left to the experts to identify. There's also a mysterious monument on the common, which is known locally as the Bee Garden. It's believed that it could be where highly-prized beeswax and honey was produced during medieval times, but the purpose of the large earthworks remains a mystery.
10 Knepp Wildland, West Sussex
Knepp is a 3,500 acres estate just south of Horsham, and has a fascinating re-wildling project which has been going on for the last 17 years. It was once an intensively-managed farm, with the estate seeing a dramatic increase in wildlife since the switch to an experimental, ranch-style set up, free from pesticides. Longhorn cattle, Exmoor ponies, roe, fallow and red deer and Tamworth pigs roam the estate, creating a varied, wild landscape as they graze in different ways. The mixture of habitats and the diversity of plants emerging in the re-wilded environment means there are a whole host of different bees here, alongside the other wildlife. You can expect to see several common species, which include Red-tailed bumblebees, Common carder bees, and maybe even something rarer, like the Red-shanked carder bee.
11 Ranscombe Farm, Kent
Some of Britain's rarest plants are being encouraged at Ranscombe through a Plantlife initiative, which includes corncockle, hairy mallow and three scarce orchid species. The farm is home to an incredibly diverse range of farmland wildflowers, making it ideal for bees. Field margins have been allowed to re-generate and the nectar-rich purple, white and yellow flowers that have emerged attract rare bees such as the Long-fringed mini-mining bee. Keep your eyes peeled for the easier to spot bumblebees and the Wool carder bee, flying around amongst the purple-blue flowers of viper's bugloss.
Image courtesy of Plantlife
Some bees prefer particular flowers, while some will only collect nectar and pollen from single species of plant. Field scabious, red barista and white bryony are all plants that will attract their own particular bees at Ranscombe, while the Red-tailed Mason bee will nest in old snail shells. This will ingeniously camouflage its home with a thatched roof of grass.
12 Cricklepit Mill, Exeter, Devon
Cricklepit Mill in Exeter dates back to the thirteenth century. It was once a place where woollen cloth would be finished, or 'fulled', while nowadays, the site produces flour. The restored 18th century mill is home to Devon Wildlife Trust, with a wonderfully secretive garden in its grounds, at a site where an impressive 94 different species of wildflower have been recorded.
Traditional meadow wildflowers including poppies, cornflowers and corncockles have been planted in the garden beneath the city wall. Accompanying the plantings are native wildflowers which have triumphantly emerged - since the building and gardens were restored. The diversity of the nectar-rich plants makes the garden a fantastic haven for bees, based in the heart of a busy city. Keep your eyes peeled for the Buff-tailed bumblebee, which isn't fussy about the flowers it visits and enjoys nectar and pollen from the vast array of plants.
Image courtesy of Plantlife