Mahonia and Arbutus could become crucial allies in the fight to safeguard bumble bees, new research into the phenomenon of active wintertime bees suggests.
Anglia Ruskin University ecologist and pollination expert Dr Tom Ings said bees were buzzing into urban parks and gardens in mid winter and he was looking at whether there were enough food resources in our green spaces in towns and cities.
Two crucial plants were nectar-rich Mahonia and Arbutus, a big source of pollen, he told an Urban Public Gardens conference in Cambridge hosted by PlantNetwork on 12 April.
From November to February Mahonia was like a magnet for bees, plant pie charts revealed.
"Bumble bees now have a full winter generation in the south of England." he said, also singling out Salvia as a beneficial plant. "Mahonia is really important with bees, and without it you don't see so many of them."
He added: "We don't know if the bees are coming out of hibernation early or if they are flying in from the countryside. My gut feeling is they can only be active if there are gardens with exotic plants and if they can benefit from the urban heat-island effect in the city. In the south of England you can find bees but in the wider countryside it is very hard."