We put this bee in our Outdoor Gardens as a reminder of how important pollinating insects such as bees are to flowers – and to us humans.

Because plants can’t move (much) they reproduce by luring insects – and sometimes other animals – to take their pollen from flower to flower. They use colour, scent, shape and the sweet reward of pollen and nectar, to do this. Some flowers even have ‘runway lines’ to guide pollinating insects in.

Over a third of our food plants depend on pollinators to reproduce – providing us with fresh flowers, fruit and vegetables.

About the sculpture

Bombus the Giant Bee was created by Robert Bradford. Bees are vital pollinators for many flowers including many of our crop plants. Here our Giant Bee looks across to the Biomes, based on honeycombs. Nature's architecture. Hexagons provide maximum strength using minimum materials.                                                 

Bombus the Giant Bee focuses upon the central significance of pollination in the ecology of plant life: the mutual dependency between plants and their insect pollinators. 

'Sorry if it looks a bit scary – it must be worse the other way round.'
Robert Bradford, artist

About the artist

Robert Bradford started his artistic career as a painter, then worked with film, before becoming a psychotherapist. He now works as a sculptor, working mainly on large-scale pieces. 

Find out more on Robert Bradford's website

Bee facts: the A, Bee, C

  • Average days (of a female worker bee): two days cleaning, nine days feeding larvae, six days building combs, four days guarding the entrance, then out and about collecting nectar and pollen.
  • Beeswax: made in wax pockets in the abdomen. Chewed to soften. Passed from worker to worker to build combs.
  • Colony:
    • Female workers: 10,000 to 60,000. Bigger brains than the Queen. Live five-to-six weeks in summer (five-to-six months if over winter)
    • Male drones: 2,000 to 0. No sting, mate with the Queen then kicked out to die
    • The Queen: one only. Lays 2,000 eggs a day and lives about five years. Replaced sooner if egg laying declines.
    • Grubs: larvae develop into workers, drones or a Queen depending which cell they are born in and what they are fed.
  • Dance: tell their mates where the food is using a special 'waggle dance'. 
  • Eyes: bees have five and can see all colours except red.  
  • Flying: about 15 mph. Wings move 12,000 times a minute (creating the buzz).
  • Glue (AKA propolis): bees make it from plant resin. Used as a sealant, an antiseptic and to mummify dead animals that are too big to shift out of the hive.
  • Hexagonal honeycombs: maximum strength, minimum materials.
  • Inject: she stings in defence, then dies.
  • Jelly: royal jelly is fed to the larvae.
  • Keeping healthy: black bees groom to remove pests.
  • Lines: certain flowers have ’bee lines’ - that only bees can see - directing them in.
  • Miles: visit up to 2,000 flowers a day. Two million flowers give around 1lb of honey, clocking up to 55,000 air miles (round the world and half-way back again).
  • Nectar: attracts bees to flowers. Collected in ‘honey stomach’, regurgitated in hive, fanned to concentrate into honey. 
  • Out and about: when it gets too crowded the Queen, thousands of workers and a few drones fly to a branch and swarm. Scouts find a new hive then they all go to it.
  • Pollen: collected from and therefore spread between flowers (fertilising them). Stored in pollen baskets on the bees' legs. Protein feed for larvae.
  • Queenie: can mate with around 12 drones on her wedding flight.
  • Recognition: bees can identify different (human) faces and presumably different human scents. 
  • Stretchy bottom: bees’ (internal) bottoms expand to enable them to store poo for long periods. This means that they don't have to poop in the hive when bad weather restricts flying.
  • Tidy: bees’ front legs have combs to clean their antennae.
  • Upgrade: the Queen (grub) is fed special food from glands on the workers' heads.
  • Vibration: bees can keep the brood nest at 32–35°C by vibrating their bodies in cold weather.
  • World’s food producers: honey bees pollinate around one-third of the world's crops; their commercial value runs into billions of pounds.
  • X-ray out, bee in. Sniffer bees may soon be used to detect some human diseases.
  • Yum: antennae are used to smell, taste and touch.
  • Zubb. Zubb: a bee flying backwards.

A buzz about bees

Our honey bees are under threat from loss of habitat, climate change, pesticides and disease.

What can we do?    

  • Create bee-friendly gardens with pollen and nectar-rich flowers that bloom throughout the year
  • Avoid using pesticides 
  • Take up beekeeping, using native rather than imported bees.
  • Buy local, responsibly sourced honey
  • Help save our native black honey bee

B4 Project: saving our native black honey bee

We’re working with B4 (Bringing Back Black Bees) to help save, breed and re-establish the native black honey bee.   

  • Local: The first bee to inhabit the UK.
  • Threatened: Under threat (by crossbreeding) from imported sub-species since the 1850s.
  • Capable: Suited to our weather, coping with cool days, wild winds, mist, mizzle, drizzle and full-on rain. 
  • Mega-hygienic: Grooms and keeps bee pests and diseases down.

The B4 Project is a Community Interest Company representing a group of beekeepers whose aim is to protect the UK's native honey bee, Apis mellifera mellifera. Working closely with scientists to identify genetic purity of samples taken geographically.

Find out more on the B4 website

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