Monday 1 June 2015

Bumblebee watching

I am doing 30 Days Wild with the Wildlife Trusts. My vague plan is to have an invertebrate emphasis, to make an effort to see more of them given the dismal, windy, cool spring we are having, and to revive the almost dormant blog. Bumblebees appear to be having a particularly bad year. The first workers have been few and small, and even if many of their favourite plants are blooming, I only see the single worker about every now and then. I decided bumblebee watching would be the first wild event of 30 Days Wild. After all, Bumblebees fly during cold, cloudy days.
 Over the years, I have introduced plenty of native plants in the garden, which attract an assortment of solitary bees, bumblebees and other insects. Primroses flower early in the spring and are visited by the Hairy Footed flower bee, Anthophora plumipes, and occasionally by Bee Flies. Later,  Welsh Poppies buzz with bumblebees collecting pollen. At this time of the year Hedge Woundwort (above, a bee's eye view of a flower spike) and White Dead-Nettles are in bloom, and they are followed by long-tongued solitary bees and bumblebees.
This afternoon I managed to see just two bumblebee species, the Carder Bee, Bombus pascuorum and the Early Bumblebee, Bombus pratorum. B. pascuorum is a long tongued bumblebee and likes flowers from the mint family. It visited sage and hedge woundwort, while B. pratorum has a very small tongue and likes flat flowers. It visited Alliums and White dead-nettles. I find that B. pratorum, despite its tiny tongue, sometimes steals nectar through holes at the base of flowers, or is small enough to get inside the flower and reach the nectar.
This Bombus pratorum was visiting White Dead Nettles in the front garden.
A Bombus pascuorum on the sage hedge.


Unknown said...

Hmmm, I seem to be having a pretty good year for bees so far, coincidentally I spent an afternoon photographing bees in my back garden 28th May and recorded good numbers of the Common Carder, Early, Garden, Red tailed, White tailed, Tree bumblebees and the Hairy Footed flower bee. Most were workers, but there were a few biggies about of the Common Carder and White tailed. Tree bumblebees were especially in abundance on cotoneaster (which audibly hums at this time of year and is known in our household as 'the buzzing bush'), the rest were feasting on Erysimum 'Bowles Mauve'. We usually have a healthy contingency of Wool Carder bees on the Stachys Byzantina each year but I think it's a bit early for them yet.
But I'm quite a bit further south than you (Romford, Essex) so maybe that has something to do with it. Or maybe they prefer a continental diet?

Africa Gomez said...

Thank you for your comment Karen, and lovely to hear you have lots of bees in your garden. This is being quite an unusual year, normally we have plenty of bees. Lets hope the summer picks up and we have some sunny warm days!