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Watch out, bumble's about!

 

While Jack Frost is still very much active, the days are lengthening and with it the hardy early bloomers are making an appearance. Snowdrops, crocuses and even the odd daffodil are bringing a touch of colour to the bare soil. This means that other species are awakening, or at least they will be very soon - the bumblebees!

There are 24 species of bumblebee in the UK and 18 of these are social bumblebees with queens, males and workers. These species fom colonies each year. The other 6 species are cuckoo bumblebees -  so called, because like the cuckoo bird they are parasitic and lay their eggs in the nests of other bumblebees.

A hibernating tree bumblebee
(Bombus hypnorum)

The queen bumblebee

Late in the summer of last year a young female will have left the colony to mate with a male bumblebee from another nest. She will then have fed on pollen and nectar to build up her fat reserves, before finding a comfortable spot underground to hibernate. You can sometimes find them in compost heaps, pots and loose soil if you're doing some early spring cleaning, so keep an eye out and try not to disturb them!

As the temperature rises in the coming weeks the queen will wake up and look for somewhere to feed to build up her energy again. Those early flowering plants are really important for her! If she can find enough to eat then the queen can begin to look for a suitable nesting site. Changes in land management and habitat loss have made these sites a little more difficult to find, but modern alternatives such as compost bins and nest boxes seem to be appealing to queen bees!

Once chosen, the queen will need to populate her nest. She prepares for this by bringing pollen from nearby flowers, and making a little wax pot that she fills with nectar to feed on. At the same time she will also mix pollen and wax together in a ball and lay eggs in it. She will keep them warm by shivering to keep the temperature up for the first few days until the larvae emerge. In the following weeks the queen will forage back and forth to feed the larvae until they have grown enough to create a cacoon and develop into adult bees. These bees will form the first brood of workers to build and maintain the nest through the coming months.

What to do if you find a bumblebee

If you're pottering in the garden or out on a balcony at the moment you might come across a rather tired bumblebee. If the bee is still just leave her to keep resting, but if she is awake and moving the best thing that you can do is give it a bit of refreshment! A little bit of sugar water will give the bumblebee a chance to refresh itself. If possible do this outside as the bumblebee will disappear off once it has built up its energy again!

Fingers crossed the bumblebees nest near your wildflower patch this year!

Want to know more?

Check out the Bumblebee Conservation Trust website and if you find a bumblebee that you would like to identify try the BeeWatch tool!

 


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Watch out, bumble's about!

 

While Jack Frost is still very much active, the days are lengthening and with it the hardy early bloomers are making an appearance. Snowdrops, crocuses and even the odd daffodil are bringing a touch of colour to the bare soil. This means that other species are awakening, or at least they will be very soon - the bumblebees!

There are 24 species of bumblebee in the UK and 18 of these are social bumblebees with queens, males and workers. These species fom colonies each year. The other 6 species are cuckoo bumblebees -  so called, because like the cuckoo bird they are parasitic and lay their eggs in the nests of other bumblebees.

A hibernating tree bumblebee
(Bombus hypnorum)

The queen bumblebee

Late in the summer of last year a young female will have left the colony to mate with a male bumblebee from another nest. She will then have fed on pollen and nectar to build up her fat reserves, before finding a comfortable spot underground to hibernate. You can sometimes find them in compost heaps, pots and loose soil if you're doing some early spring cleaning, so keep an eye out and try not to disturb them!

As the temperature rises in the coming weeks the queen will wake up and look for somewhere to feed to build up her energy again. Those early flowering plants are really important for her! If she can find enough to eat then the queen can begin to look for a suitable nesting site. Changes in land management and habitat loss have made these sites a little more difficult to find, but modern alternatives such as compost bins and nest boxes seem to be appealing to queen bees!

Once chosen, the queen will need to populate her nest. She prepares for this by bringing pollen from nearby flowers, and making a little wax pot that she fills with nectar to feed on. At the same time she will also mix pollen and wax together in a ball and lay eggs in it. She will keep them warm by shivering to keep the temperature up for the first few days until the larvae emerge. In the following weeks the queen will forage back and forth to feed the larvae until they have grown enough to create a cacoon and develop into adult bees. These bees will form the first brood of workers to build and maintain the nest through the coming months.

What to do if you find a bumblebee

If you're pottering in the garden or out on a balcony at the moment you might come across a rather tired bumblebee. If the bee is still just leave her to keep resting, but if she is awake and moving the best thing that you can do is give it a bit of refreshment! A little bit of sugar water will give the bumblebee a chance to refresh itself. If possible do this outside as the bumblebee will disappear off once it has built up its energy again!

Fingers crossed the bumblebees nest near your wildflower patch this year!

Want to know more?

Check out the Bumblebee Conservation Trust website and if you find a bumblebee that you would like to identify try the BeeWatch tool!

 


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