Are there really fewer bumble bees?

I thought I had seen more bumble bees this year and I deduced that it was because they can fly at lower temperatures – more like 7 degrees whereas honeybees need about 12 degrees.   I thought we’d had more colder weather and therefore the bumble bees could get out whereas the honeybees stayed huddled.  It was a great relief as the ground works we had last year had disturbed at least one honey bee nest and I was feeling guilty that I had sealed their fate.   The pollinating bee log had to be moved but had survived the upheaval and we do have quite a few nooks and crannies and piles of stones etc.


At the Naphill fete yesterday, a local gardener was bemoaning the fact his beans had not been pollinated this year

Pollinating bee log

Pollinating bee log

Earlier this year I had noticed several bumbling around near ground level presumably looking for a nest site.  For several weeks I spotted what I believe to be a tree bumble bee down by my hives – I could almost set my clock by her but every time I went back to collect my camera she had dashed off, camera shy I assume.   The movement of this comparative new comer  to the UK, Bombus hypnorum, is being tracked by the Bumble Bee Conservation Trust

Making a pollinating bee log is as easy as collecting and binding together some pieces of bamboo or drilling wide holes along a log.  The artistic make it into something even more splendid.

When tending the garden today I saw lots more bumble bees and no honey bees at all except in the apiary.  There was a brave bumble bee tackling the tumbling, sodden red roses by the back door.   The buzz of a bumble bee is deeper than the buzz from a honeybee but as it investigated inside the roses its buzz became higher pitched and almost anxious – I couldn’t decide whether it was the water in the blooms or the fact it had spotted I was dead heading them.

I went to one of the foxgloves, admiring the range of colours and the fact they spring up so easily.  I am not sure why they are not called poor man’s orchid or something because each flower has such intriguing marking. 

I was musing that a flower could hide an entire bumble bee, even a large one and that each flower spike gives a succession of forage when out popped a very large bee – surprising me so much I failed to take its picture even though that was why I was looking at foxgloves in the first place.

My next chosen habitat was close to a wildish rose at the back of the garage – 2 bumble bees of different types spotted here.  I saw the pollen baskets of one filled with yellow pollen and wondered whether the other could be a fly masquerading as a bumble bee – its wings made that triangular shape when open that is more typical of flies.

Either I am mistaken in my idea that there are more bumble bees or they have all decided to move to my garden for some reason.

If you want to make your own insect house there is lots of advice – eg here  or for the more adventurous here


About apiarylandlord

Definitely past it - whatever it was - I may have blinked and missed it. New to beekeeping and totally entranced by the experience. That is probably all you need to know until I work out how secure this blog is. Great fan of recycling - see to find your local group. Save things from landfill. Pass on your surplus, locally, for free or ask for things you need in case you can have someone's cast off again for free.
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3 Responses to Are there really fewer bumble bees?

  1. I have noticed the same thing although I am in France. I have lots more bumble bees and solitary bees in my garden than honey bees. There are honey bee hives in the woods not far from here and the hives are active. I saw more honey bees earlier in the year in the garden perhaps they prefer the wild flowers that are around just now. I have at least two active bumble bee nests that I know of in the garden

    • The variation in size and colour of bumble bees makes them interesting to watch. Not sure I am good at identification yet. The fact there are several ‘cuckoo’ bumble bees is intriguing, too. The first bee to ever sting me was definitely a huge fat bumble bee – I saw it but was only 5 and didn’t quite make the link with stings until the pain.

      • The harder I try to identify the bumble bees the more confused I get. Despite the help of the Bumble Bee Conservation Trust, I find it very difficult and I am probably dealing with some different species over here. Unfortunately, I cannot find so much good information on the French web sites. I have found one in Belgium but it is quite technical. I still love watching them no matter what they are called.

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