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No Bumblebees

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Since last Saturday, i haven’t seen one bumble!! I am very concerned as previously i saw many Queen’s and am now confused as to why i haven’t seen any in this past week, despite the awful weather.

Has anyone else noticed this or is it just here in Swindon?

I would have expected to have seen more bees as the Queens should have produced some offspring by now but the opposite is true. Anyone got any ideas?

     
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I saw one in the garden yesterday, don’t know which kind as I was too far away. Last evening there was a huge one against the window but it had gone by the time I got outside. Went round the garden today to see what I could find and all I could hear were the birds, no bee sounds of any kind.  Very strange on a warm and sunny afternoon.

Pat

     
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I agree Pat362, thi is most strange. Thanks for your reply grin

     
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I’m not seeing much BB activity here either.
But I think this will be because we have a late season, so any queen that has established a nest is likely to be “keeping indoors” and brooding; and there will be (are) just a few workers active.

As you might have seen in the Tree Bumblebee (B. hypnorum) 2013 thread, a few days back I re-located a Garden Bumblebee colony (B hortorum) from a neighbour’s garden.  The bees are now released to forage for themselves.
And I’ve discovered that there is a B. hypnorum colony in the bird box.
And they have “flight points” that are about a metre apart.
So I know that there are two colonies there - but both colonies must be quite small. 

If you sit on a chair and watch, you can see the bees going off foraging or returning.

But still you may have to sit and watch for half an hour before you see a single bee movement !

So I’m not surprised that in the wider environment we are not seeing many bees active at present !

Yours       Clive

     
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Thanks Clive for your fascinating reply grin

I have started seeing a few bees in the last few days but whatever species they are, they are all tiny! Red -tail, carder or White tailed they are all the size of Early bumble workers. I am assuming this is due to lack of food during brooding rearing.  I have a tiny red-tailed worker in my kitchen as we speak i found her on my Phacaliea in the pouring rain.

     
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I work in a Garden Center (B&Q) and some of our plant stock is just coming into flower, normally we are a buzz with bees but not this year, only seen 2 so far ...
Ive heard our season is running slightly late so maybe the Bees are running slightly late too, fingers crossed.

     
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Thanks for your input Steve. It is very worrying :-(

     
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Hi!

I too have been worrying about the absence of bumblebees during May.  After none at all in March, the Queens did start appearing in April -  about the same as in 2012, which if you remember was really wet and not good for the bees. But during May the absence of bees seemed almost devastating,  with the exception of a few Pascuorum and it seemed the Queens might not have been able to sustain their new nests-  I saw three dead Terrestris Queens on the paths.  However on the last day of May the temp rose to 19 C! and I sighted more Pratorum and Pascuorum workers and ONE Lapidarius.  So perhaps Clive is right, the bees are biding their time for good June days and new nectar sources, and all will be well!
P.S.  and today 3, at least, Lapidarius on the cotoneaster just into flower.
From Suffolk

Kit

     
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Hi, we have been speaking about this a fair bit up here in Edinburgh, seeing very few bumblebees about, our nesting box of Pratorums has only been live with fliers for a few weeks so as Clive says I think most will still be brooding and developing.
We’ve got about 15/20 wee things and they are magic, Pratorums are pretty much all we are seeing out and about at the moment.
Give it a few weeks I think and we’ll see some more fledging!

     
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Thanks Kit4 and Buzz for your great replies. Fingers crossed for more bees soon grin

     
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Of all the most common bumble’s seen in gardens, after a period of no bees all the ones i have seen in the last week are all tiny, like early bumble worker size, regardless of species. Most odd, i am assuming lack of food has caused this abnormality in our bee populations with such a cold spring. Despite their size they are till working hard grin

     
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Hello all

thank you so much for this interesting and topical thread.

The late spring definitely affected when the queen bumblebees emerged from hibernation.
Activity seemed to pick towards the second half of April and the first half of May.

But like you, since then I haven’t seen many bees at all!
Like some of you I hoped that this could be down to the fact that queen bumblebees were stuck indoors rearing the first brood.
I do hope this is still the case but I’m still not seeing bumblebees in any significant numbers. They are doing better in gardens generally than in the wider countryside but this isn’t the case this year in central Edinburgh!

Had some interesting feedback from a very experienced beewalker (dated 29th May) and he has allowed me to reproduce some of his thoughts here

‘Anyway, with regard to your question below.  I attribute the low count on the transect to a lack of suitable flowering plants along the transect at present. There are plenty of thistles, brambles and bird foot trefoil along the route but none of it is in flower yet. The spring has been much later this year than for many years. However up to the early 1980s, springs this late were not unusual. I’m old enough to remember them, and a look at the statistics of first blooming of fruit trees etc confirm it.. So a late spring should not in itself be disastrous for wild bees, in fact I think that the very mild winters and early springs of many the last 25 years were more of a problem for them.

In fact there have been lots of bumblebees around for about 6 weeks in my garden (Queens and workers of B. hortorum, terrestris and pascuorum plus a few pratorum). And there seemed to be just as many nest-searching queens around this year as in any year. I also know from experience that after they find nest sites there can be a quiet period with not many bees around when presumably they are in the nest incubating the first brood.
So we must see what happens. I think that the very cold and wet ‘summer’ we had last year here in the south could have had more of a bad effect, by flooding underground nests.

It is invariably the case that I see far more bumblebees in my garden than in the open countryside, simply because my garden is densely and purposefully planted with flowers for bumblebees. And this planting strategy really works, although of course they could be from a small number of local colonies.

It is also noteworthy that I am rarely seeing any honeybees at all in the garden now, and that local beekeepers are all complaining how their colonies have barely survived the cold winter and late spring. I think that honeybee stocks have been greatly weakened by Varroa and this has made them more vulnerable to viruses and/or amoebic parasites, and also less able to stand up to bad weather. I am told that honeybee decline is quite acute in this area. Apparently cherry and soft fruit growers north of here up in Herefordshire are now paying lots of money to buy in Koppert bumblebee colonies to pollinate their fruit crops (in the open or in open-ended polytunnels) because there are so few honeybees, and because their crops are so valuable. They are also experimenting, apparently, with Red Mason bees in electrically heated boxes designed to persuade them to emerge earlier than normal.

Meanwhile my Red Mason Bees in the garden are just romping away. Hundreds of them in the garden and what looks like a swarm of them around their large (unheated!) bee house, but of course they do not sting.

Interestingly I saw a number of butterflies along my bumblebee transect when I did the last walk. About five species, all adults which would have overwintered in hibernation. I suspect that they the cold late spring has kept them in hibernation longer. Unfortunately hardly any nectar plants for them in bloom either at present.’


I will copy this message to the BeeWalk thread too,
cheers, elaine

     
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I too noticed a sad lack of BBs in the garden until the last week or ten days.  This coincides with the fact that the rape in the field adjoining my garden has now finished flowering.  Is this a coincidence? 

Two days ago I had a huge queen BB, variety unknown as it was weaving backwards and forwards between the upstairs windows to the bathroom and bedroom and difficult for me to see properly.  It was around for the best part of an hour but I have not seen it since.  There is a nest box on that wall which has recently been vacated by a family of blue tits.  I wonder if it has taken up residence in the bird box. 

I have also seen a queen lapidarius working the phacelia on my allotment during the last few days.

This does seem to be vary late for nest hunting even in this difficult year.

Sparrow - Sue

     
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Thanks Elaine and Sue for your very interesting posts. It is so worrying as this summer looks like a repeat of last year which was awful for the bees. I hope the weather will improve soon. Most of the seedlings i planted in March, musk mallow, corncockle, phacaliea, knapweed, scabious, ragged robin and many more have not grown more than 1” in height and none of my seedlings, including my mainstay Cosmos, have not had a single flower on them! It is a total disaster for the bees in this area as my garden is normally a haven for them :-( Very sad and disappointing so far.

     
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Well I’m please to report an excellent weekend up here in Scotland, sunday saw our first home bred queen appear out of our wee nesting box of pratorums, great start to the day here in Edinburgh!
As well as that the cotoneaster bush in the back garden was absolutely awash with wee buzzing things! BPs & BTs with a good helping of Carder and honey bees too!
We nipped off up to Dunkeld to see how the Ospreys were getting on and up around the Loch of Lowes the place is absolutely buzzing! no joke, within 5mins of walking we’d found a BT nest and, well it was just fantastic to see and hear so many bees! at last!
Today I’ve seen a good number of male Pratorums stoating about too, relieved as much as delighted!

     
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Having returned to Nottingham recently, I noticed quite a few bees around in the last two weeks of April. Unfortunately we then had a couple of hard frosts and that seems to have had an adverse effect on the bees I saw. In fact I received anecdotal evidence of quite a few bumblebees having been found dead in a local green area. Whether this was due to the weather or other factors I cannot be totally sure. There are now quite a few different species around, including Early, Tree, White tailed, Buff tailed and Red tailed.