As the Mary Kay Ash quote goes: ‘Aerodynamically, the bumblebee shouldn’t be able to fly but the bumblebee doesn’t know it so it goes on flying anyway.’ And flying they are, now that spring is here. The warmer weather brings the bumblebees – all queens – out of their long sleep, to begin the process of nest building and egg laying. In the past week I’ve seen several in flight and managed to get photos of two different species.
Though it’s common in Europe and Asia, this Tree bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum) is not a British native. In fact, its ancestors only arrived in Britain in 2001. It has, however, made itself right at home and, as far as scientists can tell, is not damaging the native bee populations. It’s important we monitor its spread and population though, so please help by reporting your sightings to the Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society (BWARS).
The Buff-tailed bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) is often the first to be seen each year, emerging as early as February if the weather’s warm enough. Its nests, occupying old mouse and vole holes underground, can house as many as 500 individuals.
You will notice in my photo that this bumblebee has some hitchhikers. These are mites but please do not be concerned for this little creature. The mites are normal, they actually help keep bumblebee nests clean, and only in extreme cases do they affect the bumblebee’s health and welfare. You can read more here.