Beningbrough Hall gardens - Yorks

Best places to visit in the UK to spot bees

1. The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall

This 200-acre estate is buzzing in summer. The insect hotel on the Georgian Ride is a great place to spot solitary bees. Perennial wildflowers in the Heligan Wild area and wooded gardens support the long-tongued garden bumblebee. Over at the observation hive Heligan is helping native black honeybee queens to thrive.

The gardens produce more than 300 varieties of fruit, vegetables, salads and herbs. Dig in at Heligan Kitchen, where you can also enjoy a Cornish cream tea.

2. White Park Bay, County Antrim, Northern Ireland

This beach is reportedly so clean and smooth that it sings in the wind. Ancient dunes shelter the Northern colletes bee.This rare bee emerges in mid-June. It visits wild carrot and parsley, and sups nectar from white clover and bird’s foot trefoil.

In the wildflowers of the coastal grasses you're likely to see less-rare residents, like the buff-tailed bumblebee. The Giant’s Causeway is just 10 minutes down the road. (Image: Joe Cornish / National Trust Images)

3. RHS Wisley, Surrey

Bees love to pollinate the berries and blackcurrants in Wisley’s gardens. Look out for the tree bumblebee, first recorded in the UK in 2001. It sports a ginger, black and white outfit.

Scan the roses and wisteria for the crescent-shaped mark of the leafcutter bee. It lines its nest with leaves.

There are 5 enticing cafes and restaurants as well as the Wisley Shop and Plant Centre.

4. Cricklepit Mill, Exeter, Devon

The restored 18th century mill hides a secret garden with 94 different species of wildflower. These nectar-rich plants are fantastic for bees.

Look for the the buff-tailed bumblebee. It isn’t fussy about the flowers it visits, enjoying nectar and pollen from a vast array of plants. Stroll across to the varied shops and eateries of Exeter’s Quayside.

5. Beningbrough Hall, Yorkshire

Beningbrough Hall's impressive gardens are just a short trip from York. Its wonderful Victorian pear arch, planted in the 1890s, is made up of 20 different trees.

The flower gardens are bursting with nectar-filled blossoms. It's the perfect place for a variety of bees including the early bumblebee, which loves pollinating raspberries. (Image: Stephen Robson / National Trust Images)

6. Brogdale National Collections, Kent

You'll find apples from nearly every British county at Brogdale – there are 2,200 varieties.

Apple trees are reliant on bees for pollination. And there's no better bee for the job than the red mason bee. The wildlife garden is a feast for bees and other pollinators.

Visit the shop for jams and other delectables. And sample ciders and English wine at the Tiddly Pomme Shop.

7. Ranscombe Farm, Kent

Conservation charity Plantlife is helping some of Britain’s rarest plants to thrive at Ranscombe Farm. Nectar-rich purple, white and yellow flowers attract rare bees like the long-fringed mini-miner.

Bumblebees and the wool carder bee are easier to spot in the purple-blue flowers of viper’s bugloss. The red-tailed mason bee nests in old snail shells, camouflaging its home with a thatched roof of grass.

8. Kingcombe Meadows, Dorset

Kingcombe Meadows is surrounded by green lanes and winding rivers. It’s the perfect place to spot the red-tailed bumblebee, or the common carder bee in its gingery coat.

The meadows are untouched by chemicals – and thus a haven for bee-friendly wildflowers like lady’s mantle, devil’s bit scabious and knapweed. Call in at the the tearoom. Its cream teas are the stuff of local legend. (Image: Tony Bates MBE)

9. The Hive at Kew Gardens, Richmond, London

The Hive is a 17-metre tall aluminium construction. Lights and sounds inside are triggered by real-time vibrations from a beehive at Kew. Bees use vibrations to communicate with each other.

From The Hive you can see the magnificent flower borders of the Great Broad Walk. Look for white-tailed and red-tailed bumblebees on the echinacea flowers. You might even spot a wool carder bee near the lamb’s ears plant – females collect the fine hairs from the leaves to line their nests.


10. National Botanic Garden of Wales, Carmarthenshire

The science team here are doing important research on how we can help bees to flourish. A walk around this delightful garden should reveal the female hairy-footed flower bee. She's black with gingery hind legs. These bees love lungwort flowers, so keep your eyes peeled on the herbaceous borders.

Close by, Waun Las National Nature Reserve extends across the Camarthenshire countryside. Organically farmed since the 1990s, these beautiful hay meadows are full of wildflowers – making them a hit with the bees.

11. Chobham Common, Surrey

This impressive lowland heath has 400 different species of bees and wasps. It's one of the premier spots in the UK to spot bees.

Study sunny patches of earth to find cold-blooded bees warming their wings up, ready to fly. The heather colletes and the heather mining bee live here. Rarer species do too, but you'll have to really know your stuff to identify the Southern bronze furrow bee.

A mysterious monument on the common may have been where highly-prized beeswax and honey was produced in medieval times.

12. Knepp Wildland, West Sussex

There's been a big increase in wildlife here since the switch to a natural grazing system, free from pesticides. Longhorn cattle, Exmoor ponies, roe deer and Tamworth pigs roam the estate.

The mixture of habitats and diversity of plants attract many different bees. Look out for the common carder bee, the red-tailed bumblebee and, if you're lucky, a red-shanked carder bee. You can even go on a special 2-hour walking tour with a leading bee expert.

13. The John Muir Way, Central Scotland

A 134-mile, coast-to-coast path that's fantastic for spotting bees.

Buglife has identified it as the perfect route for new wildflower meadows. And over 250 people have been helping the charity to plant these pollinator-friendly habitats. Look out for common carder bees, red-tailed bumblebees and early bumblebees.

The Davies’ colletes is often seen foraging on oxeye daisies, including these pictured at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh (Image: Buglife / Suzanne Burgess).

14. Chatsworth and the Peak District, Derbyshire

The Peak District is home to the bilberry bumblebee. The Bumblebee Conservation Trust is trying to improve habitats for this moorland-loving species.

Combine a wild walk in the Peaks with a visit to Chatsworth. Over 4,600 acres of the wider Chatsworth estate contain important woodlands, grasslands and a variety of wildlife – including 6 species of bat and 250 species of fungi. (Image: Chatsworth House Trust)

15. The Secret Garden, Salisbury, Wiltshire

Find the big, old door on Mill Road and you've found the entrance to a special place.

The St Clements churchyard has become a bee magnet thanks to a community gardening project. Volunteers are growing a fantastic array of bee-friendly plants like lamb’s ears, scabious and alliums.

The wool carder bee, hairy-footed flower bee and the later-emerging ivy bee are all here. You're likely to see white-tailed and various other bumblebees too. (Image: Spencer Mulholland)

Read more from our supporter magazine, Earthed, Spring 2019.

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