Posts Tagged ‘Bumblebee’

More bumblebee observations….


Bombus Hypnorum -

Bombus Hypnorum – feeding on late raspberry flowers

Following on from my recent post about the Bumblebees in my garden I have continued to enjoy watching the bees tumbling all over the raspberry flowers, but now that these seem to be mainly set as fruit and there is slightly less activity going on around the patch.

However the bees haven’t left the garden but seem to have turned their attention to the leaves on my cherry tree. There seems to be a frenzy of bee activity, mainly in the early evening, so I have been having a closer look (and a few photos of course) as this behaviour all seems very strange as there are not actually any flowers here for them to feed on…

Bombus Vestalis -

Bombus Vestalis – entering the ‘rolled’ leaves on the cherry tree

It appears that as we have now effectively reached what beekeepers refer to as the ‘June gap’, this is the time between the end of the spring flowers and the arrival of the summer flowers, when there is less natural forage for bees of any kind to feed on. In an absence of sweet nectar from flowers the bees appear to have taken to ‘milking’ the sugary secretion from the aphids that have ‘attacked’ the underside of the youngest leaves at the end of the branches on my cherry tree.

According to the Bumblebee Conservation Trust (BCT) this behaviour appears to be becoming increasingly common.

“The secretions offer a substitute for nectar, but do not contain the protein the insects need to stay healthy. Bumblebees can only get their protein from pollen, which they feed to their growing young, so it is essential for a healthy population.”

The bumblebees’ behaviour of feeding on secretions from aphids could be a further sign of the problems facing the insects.

There have been warnings that bumblebee and wild bee populations around the UK are experiencing “catastrophic declines”.

Bombus Vestalis - feeding on aphids in young cherry tree leaves

Bombus Vestalis – Proboscis elongated and feeding on the aphids on the underside of cherry leaves

Possibly of even greater concern  is that many trees are sprayed with pesticides to kill off the aphids and this will have a knock-on effect of killing the bumblebees at a time when they are already considered to be under threat and in decline across the UK.

There were recent reports of mass wipeouts with 25,000 bees killed in the US following the application of a pesticide to control aphids and this could be happening all over the world – a very sad thought indeed….

Bombus Vestalis -

Bombus Vestalis feeding on sugary secretions – you can see a few aphids on the outside of the leave but the inside is completely coated in them

It’s not all doom and gloom though as the UK government have finally appeared to have woken up the problems with our wild pollinators (after recently trying to block a 2-year EU ban on the use of three of the most damaging neonicotinoids) and are launching an ‘urgent’ review and plans to  to introduce a national pollinator strategy. I hope this is not just political point scoring and some very urgent action is taken before we have lost these essential and beautiful insects and experience the knock on effects on both our economy and food production.

I hope you have enjoyed reading the blog,  feel free to contact me with comments, suggestions or general feedback, click on the right column to subscribe and receive updates when I next have the time between chasing the bees to write again.

I can also be found at @danieljmarsh on twitter or British Beekeepers page on Facebook.

Dan

N.B. clicking on the images opens a higher resolution image in a new window.

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Bees in my garden ….


I think its very hard to be a beekeeper and not take an active interest in all the bees, and other insects, that you come across in your garden or when out and about. I don’t keep my honey bees at home due to living in a build-up urban area with smaller gardens so I don’t often get the chance to just sit and watch my bees outside of my apiary visits.

I do however grow as many bee friendly plants as I can and try and encourage both wild bees and honey bees into the garden as well as producing a source of pollen and nectar to help conserve these solitary bees. Over the last couple of weeks I have been really enjoying watching the bumblebees tumbling all over the flowers on my raspberry plants – there are several distinct species and there is a great tool online from the Natural History Museum website to help you identify them – it helps if you take a photo for reference, here are a few of mine below (clicking on the images opens a higher resolution image in a new window):

Bombus pratorum (Early Bumblebee)

Bombus pratorum (Early Bumblebee)

Whilst I was studying these bees I noticed some appeared to be falling to the ground and landing on the grass, on closer inspection it also appeared that the bees were fighting amongst themselves – all very strange and certainly not something that I had witnessed before so I contacted a local entomologist, Dr Ian Beavis, who is a great source of knowledge (as well as an enthusiastic leader of many bug safaris in our local wild spaces) to see if he could shed some light on this unusual behaviour.

Bombus Hypnorum - disorientated on the grass after a fall from flight

Bombus Hypnorum – disorientated on the grass after a fall from flight

He replied to say not all is as it first appears, the bees are looking for a mate and will barge into and grab a partner whilst in flight, then reject them when they realise that they are the wrong species or sex which leave the slightly disorientated bees falling to the ground. They don’t seem to get hurt and soon recover enough to carry on their foraging amongst the flowers, until the next suitor arrives on the scene that is….

Bombus Hypnorum -

Bombus Hypnorum – feeding on raspberry

A recent NERC study ‘Lonely bees make better guests’  has suggested that solitary bees are twice as likely to pollinate the flowers they visit as their more sociable counterparts so we must consider these bees equally as important as the honeybees we are used to tending to and  look to try and prevent their decline with as much energy, if not more so, as at  least the beekeeper can split a colony or breed additional queens to make up for losses.

Bombus Hypnorum -

Bombus Hypnorum – easily identified with its distinctive red/brown jacket and grey/white tail

Of course the bees are not the only visitors to my raspberry patch – right now there seems to be a wealth of insects flying around and feeding on the rich nectar including this Harlequin ladybird, image below. If you spot any of the different ladybird species in your gardens it would be greatly appreciated if you could help out with the UK Ladybird Survey, again there are all sorts of tools and downloadable PDF’s to help you identify the ones that you find and this is also a great activity to carry out with kids, teaching them the importance of nature.

Harlequin ladybird

Harlequin ladybird

A new ladybird has arrived in Britain . But not just any ladybird: this is the harlequin ladybird, Harmonia axyridis, the most invasive ladybird on Earth.

The harlequin ladybird was introduced to North America in 1988, where it is now the most widespread ladybird species on the continent. It has already invaded much of of north-western Europe, and arrived in Britain in summer 2004.

There are 46 species of ladybird (Coccinellidae) resident in Britain and the recent arrival of the harlequin ladybird has the potential to jeopardise many of these. The Harlequin Ladybird Survey will monitor its spread across Britain and assess its impact on native ladybirds.

Monitoring ladybirds across the country has never been more important!

My lavender is just coming into flower and this always seems to attract more honey bees than I see on the raspberries so I am looking forward to watching these assuming that the weather improves enough for them to get out and forage this year!

I hope you have enjoyed reading the blog,  feel free to contact me with comments, suggestions or general feedback, click on the right column to subscribe and receive updates when I next have the time between chasing the bees to write again.

I can also be found at @danieljmarsh on twitter or British Beekeepers page on Facebook.

Dan

N.B. clicking on the images opens a higher resolution image in a new window.