- 95% of the worlds 20,000 species of bee are solitary rather than social bees. Ireland has 98 bee species, of which 77 are solitary bees.
- Solitary bees exist as a male and a female. When a male and female solitary bee have mated and prepared a nest for their eggs, they die off leaving the eggs to overwinter, and the young to emerge and fend for themselves the following year.
- Solitary bees look very different from bumblebees. They are much smaller and occur in a range of different shapes and colours. Some species are small and black like ants with wings, while others have black and yellow striped bodies like wasps.
- Irish solitary species nest in various different ways. Leafcutter solitary bees cut circular pieces out of leaves with their teeth and carry them back to line their nests, often in hollowed out twigs or bamboo canes. Mining solitary bees make their nests by digging holes in the ground. One solitary species called Osmia aurulenta lives in sand dunes and will only nest in empty snail shells.
- Climate change will bring new solitary species to our shores. The violet carpenter bee (Xylocopa viloacea) arrived in Waterford in 2007, although it hasn’t been seen since. Most solitary species are small and relatively inconspicuous, but Xylocopa viloacea looks like a bluebottle on steroids!