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Bumblebee flower preferences

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Joined 2013-06-12

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Much of my 900 yard bumblebee transect is bordered by gorse, some of which is in flower from March to November.  However I have noticed that early in the bumblebee season they prefer other yellow flowers e.g. dandelions, birdsfoot trefoil.  In the middle of the season they are mostly feeding on heather, thyme & such-like plants and only in September/October are they to be found on gorse.

Is this because gorse is a poor supplier of pollen/nectar when compared with other flowers?  And thus late in the season gorse is used because it is the only plant still in flower?

I would be very interested to hear what other transect walkers have to say.

     
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Total Posts: 271

Joined 2012-05-24

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Hi, you raise an interesting query !

To me, Gorse always seems to set much seed, but I’ve never seen much bee-activity on it.

Honey bees are not supposed to like working the flowers because the action of the flower gives them a"punch on the underside” when the flower is triggered.

Kirk & Howes new book “Plants for bees” says it is used in particular as a spring pollen source by queens of B. lapidarius, B. terrestris and by Anthophora plumipes.

Clive

     
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Many thanks, Clive.  I can understand the queens using gorse early in the season because few, if any, other flowers will be in bloom.

Do Kirk & Howes explain this “punch on the underside” - is it a chemical reaction like the sting of a nettle or a physical one like the prick of a sharp object?

We have broom coming into full bloom now & it will probably outlast most of the gorse - do the authors have any comments about these flowers?

Peter

     
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Joined 2012-05-24

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Hi Peter,

By what I’ve heard, the bees feel the broom trigger action rather like a “punch in the guts”.
I suppose the effect would depend on the size of the bee - so queens would be OK, but honey bees wouldn’t - perhaps until they get used to it !

The book says that Broom can be worked by bees, with BBs more likely than HBs - but smaller flowered varities can be used by HBs.

Clive

     
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Joined 2013-06-12

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Many thanks again, Clive.

I will keep a close eye of BB/plant behaviour at the back end of this season & the start of next year’s.  Mercifully my transect seems to have very few, if any, honey bees - but I will take note of whatever I see.

Peter