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How long can they hibernate?

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With this unseasonal weather in March, i wondered how long bumble’s can stay in hibernation. Does anyone know?

I am sure they can’t stay underground much longer. This penetrating frost is also killing all the spring plants that were starting to grow, so there won’t be much food if the bees do come out. Pulmonaria, Lungwort is usually in flower by now but my plants don’t even have flower buds yet, however last year they were in flower on 19th Feb!!

Any replies would be most welcome. Thank you.

     
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Hi Alibumble,

You make an interesting observation: but is our weather really all that unseasonable if viewed from a perspective of natural variability over many years, or decades ? 
(After all bees have had millions of years to adapt to climate variation, whereas western lifestyle modern humans haven’t been around that long !)

When I started getting into bumblebees, there were two odd things that took me ages to ‘get my head around’ :-
1.  When they came out of hibernation, it was over a significant time-band, not just a few days.
2.  Even Queens vary significantly in body size. 

Honey bees, which were my comparison standard are remarkably uniform in body size and incubation time, but even with these, time to hatch out can vary by a day or two if the incubation is cooler than standard.

So, I’m hoping that our bumblebees have pre-adapted to cope with both the flooded ground that was so prevalent earlier in the winter.
          And this will be via Queen Dispersal flights.
And also that they can cope with extended cold spells by prolonging their time in ‘hibernation’.
          Which is presumably covered by protracted emergence time.

Time will tell !                Yours       Clive

     
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Thank you for the interesting post Clive. Admire your knowledge grin

I think i am too much like a mother hen when it comes to bumble’s, i do worry about them excessively. I think it’s because they are so important to us, so amazing to watch and our climate isn’t always beneficial to them. I hope i will soon see some and that the weather will soon be spring-like!

I have kept a weather diary for the past 5 years and we have never had such a severely cold March in that time, i expect we have prior to that but it is very depressing, especially after last years disasterous spring/summer.

Hoping for a warm one this year and a dry one. All the best grin

     
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Thank you Alibumble and Clive for this interesting thread. 

This got me thinking about those BBs who have been seen out and about this year.  How will they fare during the long cold spell and, in Southern England, wet and windy weather to come?

Sparrow - Sue

     
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It’s a worrying time for us BB lovers Sue. Hope they can survive somehow :-(

     
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I think they’ll be OK for quite a bit if they are still hibernating, but those that have emerged can only tough it out by hunkering down in some herbage - like down inside a winter heather plant, so they can crawl up to the flowers if the temperature goes up.
But even there they can presumably only survive as long as their in-body food store lasts.
It’s a grim business for us waiting and must be much grimmer for them.
Clive

     
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Good morning to you all,

I’m glad someone has raised this subject, so far this year my total BB count is a big fat…... Zilch… 0…... none what so ever !!!!
As i’m typing this it’s snowing, big sticky flakes….... Hopefully it won’t lay !
Down here in the “Sunny South”, not far from Sherborne Dorset, there doesn’t seem to be many flowers out yet either, not even the cowslips. The Daffs are only just coming out, so maybe it’s just as well our BBs are still sleeping as there is nothing for them to feed on….... Even a walk around the village and it’s the same…. A very slow start to the year.

Peter

     
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Thanks for the interesting thread.

I’ve been asked a couple of times recently whether bumblebees, who have emerged early in the season, can re-enter hibernation when the weather turns bad (cold/wet).

I haven’t had a chance to read up on this yet but if anyone knows a definitive answer then do please share.
I just presumed that the early queens took their chances and possibly frequently did not survive long spells of poor weather early in the season.
The double whammy is that there doesn’t seem to be much for them to forage on at the moment apart from the odd snowdrop and crocus.

elaine

     
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Hmm, I wonder if this extended cold spell is less damaging than the hot snap we had last year? our experience last year here in Edinburgh, we put our nesting box out and when the queens emerged we were lucky enough to have a BT take interest and move in. She was in and out all the time nesting, built up her wee stock of honey, built some cells and laid her eggs. Fantastic to watch, was absolutely wonderful. Then the hot snap ended, we had snow and general nastiness, sadly she disappeared. :( we were gutted… we were wondering if she was a victim of the weather, fingers crossed we will have a bit more success this year, can’t help thinking the evil weather we had took her, maybe this rather than that isn’t too bad after all?

     
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Hello Bzzz.  This is obviously a successful BB house you have.  Can you tell me what sort it is please?  Style, size, positioning, home made or bought.

Many thanks

Sparrow - Sue

     
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Hi,

We used a very similar one to this, not this exact one but almost.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wildlife-World-Bumble-Bee-Nester/dp/B000R46B4S/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1364489069&sr=8-1

Make sure you get the correct nesting material as cotton wool is not good enough and just tangles the wee things legs up!

We buried it about a half inch up from the entry/exit tube and took a nice bright yellow flexi tube out of the front, underground and coming out of the ground, pointing out in a southerly direction.

She seemed very happy there, couldn’t believe our luck! Dying to get going again this year just wish the damn weather would sort itself out!!!!

     
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Thank you Bzzzz.  Looks interesting I think I might give it a go.

Sparrow - Sue

     
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We had an interesting discussion about hibernation here at BBCT HQ before the Easter break.
You should also find a short piece about this on the 4th last page of the recent Buzzword.

Apparently queens that have emerged early from hibernation can re-enter hibernation should conditions take a turn for the worst!
But they are only capable of this if they have not yet started nest building/egg laying.

So thankfully there is some hope for bumblebees to survive this ongoing winter.

Bzzzz - 28 March 2013 01:03 AM

Hmm, I wonder if this extended cold spell is less damaging than the hot snap we had last year? our experience last year here in Edinburgh, we put our nesting box out and when the queens emerged we were lucky enough to have a BT take interest and move in. She was in and out all the time nesting, built up her wee stock of honey, built some cells and laid her eggs. Fantastic to watch, was absolutely wonderful. Then the hot snap ended, we had snow and general nastiness, sadly she disappeared. :( we were gutted… we were wondering if she was a victim of the weather, fingers crossed we will have a bit more success this year, can’t help thinking the evil weather we had took her, maybe this rather than that isn’t too bad after all?

Interesting observation. You are right the cold snap right after an unusually warm spell last March undoubtedly finished off many early nests. Whether that is better or worse than the effects of this year’s weather is very hard to say but no doubt both sets of conditions will have a negative impact on some bumblebees and insects in general.

 

     
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Well we’ve got a couple of boxes all ready to go for the warm weather we are supposed to be getting this weekend, fingers crossed with the jetstream finally moving north, that’ll be the end of the cold and the start for our bees!

     
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The lack of sustained sunshine is causing lack of plant growth this year, all my seedlings are no more than 1” tall as we speak! With many bumble’s emerging, i fear many will simply starve if the sun doesn’t start shining in abundance :-(

     
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Where I live in South Bucks, we have a modicum of plants in flower at present, such as Winter Heather, Pussy Willow and Lungworts and Maple trees; and probably a few Pear trees: but there is definitely a big reserve of flower sources still to come. 

It is mainly willow that honeybees and bumbles are busy working for both nectar and pollen at present.

Sources to come include much more Pussy Willow, Blackthorn (buds starting to open), Currant bushes, Gooseberry, Sycamore, Cherry and Apple, Horsechestnut etc, then Raspberries. 

The countryside Yellow Peril (Autumn sown Oilseed Rape) will be ages yet.  Last Sunday’s Countryfile on BBC1 reckoned that it may well be June before it flowers; and some fields will be re-sown with Spring Rape, which usually flowers around August.

So, the topsy-turvey year continues !

Clive