Bumblebee blog

Here you will find informal updates on our projects, top tips from our staff and volunteers on how to support bumblebees and interesting guest articles from our partners. Use the category buttons to filter the blog articles by topic.

PhD opportunity with the Trust!

As an organisation, the Bumblebee Conservation Trust have always valued scientific research and evidence-led conservation work. So when the opportunity came up to work with the University of East Anglia (UEA) we leapt at the chance!

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Machair Galore!

By Claire Wales, Support Services Officer at the Bumblebee Conservation Trust

In July 2017, an excitingly rural and colourful search for the Great yellow bumblebee took place in one of the most exquisite locations!

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The Plight of the Bumblebee

 

“I moved closer and not only heard it, saw it – the biggest, fattest, furriest bumblebee ever.  I could barely believe my eyes”.

We recently received this delightful story, by Bumblebee Conservation Trust member, Judith Pearson, and her encounter with a queen bumblebee in winter! We hope you enjoy reading and sharing with friends and family.

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Winter husbandry for solitary bees

By Ron Rock, Bumblebee Conservation Trust Volunteer

And so, we reach the end of another bee year. As I write, there are just a few Common carder bees still in the garden. The Red mason and Leafcutter bees are long gone but mud and leaf filled tubes in the bee nesters are evidence that their work has been done. Another generation is already in place and will emerge next spring and summer. But will it? Are bee nesters a fit and forget option in our gardens? Will the bees emerge and happily go on year after year? Sadly, the answer is probably not.

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Smelly male bumblebees!

By Cathy Horsley, Conservation Officer West Country Buzz

This summer, I learnt that different species of male bumblebees have different scents. I use a marking cage to examine bumblebees on my surveys to get a good close up look to identify them, and the male bees sooner or later released a puff of perfume.

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Bees on strike

Last month, on our social media channels, we showcased what life might be like if pollinators decided to down their tools and stop working. #BeesOnStrike aimed to get people thinking about what life would be like without our most loyal insect civil servants, and what we can all do to improve their working conditions. Hopefully the message got through – our lives would change immeasurably for the worse without them and it is in all of our best interests to do something to help them.

Imagine if every single person decided to do even just one small good deed for the creatures which contribute so much to our lives.

If you are looking for ideas about how you can help, here are a few to get you started:
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A closer look at the recent Centre for Ecology & Hydrology pan-European neonicotinoid study

Research in focus: Country-specific effects of neonicotinoid pesticides on honey bees and wild bees. By Woodcock et al (2017), Science 365 (6345), pp. 1393-1395. DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa1190

On the 29th of June, the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) published the largest field study to date examining the effects of neonicotinoid insecticides on bees. This much-anticipated study was funded by pesticide manufacturers Syngenta and Bayer, and carried out independently by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) after intense scrutiny of the methodology by researchers at the University of Cambridge.

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Industrial-scale wildflower seeding for Great yellows

For the last couple of years, we’ve been working with Scottish and Southern Energy Electricity Networks (SSEN) and its contractor Balfour Beatty at three new substation sites in Caithness. The substations are needed to carry the huge amounts of power generated from the recent upsurge in the renewable sector in Caithness, and also to replace aging plant. Balfour Beatty contracted an Environmental Consultant, Angus Spirit (Envirassist) to make recommendations and write a plan for the environmental improvement of the site after the substations had been built. Angus contacted me in 2015 as he thought the site could have significant biodiversity benefit for bumblebees and wanted to see if there was anything I could recommend. In particular, could these huge construction sites be made attractive to Great yellow bumblebees?

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Buzzing about Crofting Practice

This guest blog has been kindly written by Katie Morrison, a recent graduate from Aberdeen University. Katie received a first class grade for her honours thesis in which she investigated how farming practices in the Outer Hebrides impact on bumblebee diversity and abundance. Here she tells us about her findings.

Background

Bumblebees are endearing and charismatic. It is, however, no secret that bumblebees are coming under growing pressure from intensive farming practices throughout Britain. But nestled in the North-West corner of Britain in the Outer Hebrides, rare bumblebees including the Great Yellow (extinct across England & Wales) and Moss Carder are thriving!

The machair of the Outer Hebrides might be unfamiliar to you. Machair (a Gaelic word) is a beautiful coastal habitat consisting of an extensive, low-lying fertile grassland. Its shell based soil hosts a multitude of flowers throughout the summer but is nearly barren throughout the winter. The floral display is unique across the world hosting some rare orchids, making it a precious habitat globally.

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Red Storm Rising

By Ron Rock, Bumblebee Conservation Trust Volunteer

Don’t worry, to the best of my knowledge we are not about to be invaded, at least not by a belligerent force. However, the forces of good are beginning to stir, nest hunting queen bumblebees are on the move, one of which was recently described to me as the size of a B52. If you own a patch of pulmonaria or early flowering comfrey keep an eye open for a small ginger bee with a distinctive high pitched buzz and whizzing flight for this will be a male hairy footed flower bee. This bee jealously guards his chosen flowers, only allowing females of the species to forage in his patch. This way the all black females gain a protected pollen and nectar resource and he gets to perform the function that male bees are designed for, all in all a rather neat arrangement!

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