Skip to main content

Buzzing to Celebrate World Bee Day 2024


Communications Officer for the Digital Education Service at the University, Mary-Beth Whittingstall, is a keen birder, nature enthusiast, wildlife photographer, and absolutely fascinated by bees!

Mary-Beth talks to us about the bees on campus and how you can get involved through Wildlife Wanders, which are monthly guided walks dedicated to exploring, monitoring and protecting biodiversity on campus...

Mary-Beth Whitingstall

Why do you love bees?

My interest in bees began when I was very young, and years later, I am still learning new things about them!  

Bees play a crucial role in our ecosystems as pollinators, supporting both wild plant populations and agricultural crops, yet they mostly go unnoticed.

Did you know there are over 270 different species of bees in the UK? While you may be familiar with social bees such as Bumblebees and Honeybees, over 90 percent of species are Solitary Bees – bees that do not live in colonies. Unlike Honeybees and Bumblebees, which collect pollen in ‘baskets’ on their hind legs, Solitary Bees use modified hair on their legs or the underside of their abdomen, dispersing more pollen as they travel from flower to flower. This makes them much better pollinators. In fact, the pollination efforts of a single Red Mason Bee are equivalent to those of 120 worker Honeybees! 

On a personal level, I find observing bees very calming, reminding me of our intricate connections to nature. It is a mindfulness practice that I endorse for anyone who wants to go beyond the usual meditation and colouring books. 

A Red Mason Bee

A Red Mason Bee

Tell us about the bees on campus!

Several bee species are seen on campus, each with unique behaviours and appearances. The most commonly spotted are Honeybees, managed by University students and staff in hives and known for their organised colonies and honey production. We also have Bumblebees, which are larger, fuzzier, and excellent pollinators for a variety of plants. Additionally, we have my favourites – the Solitary Bees, which make their nests in the ground or in hollow stems or cavities, playing a vital role in pollinating early-blooming plants. 

Did you know that our campus is home to many ground-nesting solitary bees, including the Tawny Mining Bee? Join us on a Wildlife Wander for the opportunity to observe these beautiful insects up close. Several bee hotels are also installed around campus to support Mason and Leafcutter Solitary Bees, providing them with safe nesting sites, along with no-mow areas to provide them with plenty of food to survive. 

A Tree Bumblebee

A Tree Bumblebee

What are Wildlife Wanders?  

Wildlife Wanders engage both staff and students in exploring and conserving the diverse wildlife on our campus. Led by a small team of University staff, these relaxed walks offer a unique opportunity to learn about local flora and fauna, participate in citizen science, and contribute to our understanding of campus ecosystems. Whether you are a seasoned nature nerd or just curious about the natural world, Wildlife Wanders provide a perfect way to connect with nature and your University community. 

A group of people looking at the trees on Woodhouse Moore

Get involved - come Wandering with us!  

Participating in Wildlife Wanders is easy! We host regular walks every month, focusing on themes such as bird watching, plant identification, and bee-spotting in the warmer seasons. Staff and students from all departments are welcome, and no prior experience is necessary – just bring your curiosity and a sense of adventure! 

To join the next Wildlife Wander:

I encourage everyone to participate in Wildlife Wanders and discover the often-overlooked world of campus wildlife. By getting involved, you will not only enhance your knowledge and appreciation of nature but also help promote the importance of protecting our environment, at University and at home. Together, we can create a more sustainable and biodiverse campus for future generations to enjoy. 

Happy bee-spotting this World Bee Day and I hope to see you at our next Wildlife Wander! 

Photo Credits: Mary-Beth Whittingstall, @birder_bee

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

We use the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework to guide our activity. Our work on biodiversity is linked to the following SDGs:

  • Goal 3: Good health and well-being
  • Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities
  • Goal 15: Life on land

Find out more about our impact on the SDGs.

United Nation Sustainable Development Goal 3: Good health and well-beingUnited Nation Sustainable Development Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communitiesUnited Nation Sustainable Development Goal 15: Life on land