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September Bumblebees

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I have had a wide variety of Bumblebees in my small garden this year (North London) including B. Lucorum,  B. Terrestris,  B. Hypnorum, B. Pascuorum and B. Hortorum, but now in the first week of September I seem to have only B. Pascuorum in large numbers. There are plenty of workers still collecting pollen, some extremely lazy layabout males and possibly old or new queens.  My question is would a new queen collect pollen for herself or does she only seek out nectar?

My absolute star plants this year are Gold Medal for Salvia Hotlips which is still flowering happily and will go on into October (sorry about no latin name, but photo attached from earlier in the season). The flowers start white and then the lips turn bright red.  Spreads about 6 foot.

The silver medal goes to Viper’s Bugloss (Echium Vulgare) which is a stunningly Bee covered perennial, although it is not for very tidy gardeners.

Nostaw

     

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Joined 2012-08-24

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That’s a lovely pic Nostaw. I too noticed a sudden decline in terrestris and locorum today…there were lots of the common carder bees around, and solitary bees. However I only saw a couple of small terrestris workers, just last week there were dozens of them around. I think I saw a cuckoo-bee lolling about on a tithonia too.

That salvia looks good…is it a perennial?

I think any Queens that you see will be new ones, once old Queen establishes her nest and the first workers emerge I don’t think she forages any more.

     
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Hi Cheerypeabrain. My first reply disappeared so I hope we don’t get two! Yes it is a perennial and it is quite fabulous even without the bees. It needs a bit of space as it can reach 6 ft wide and 6 high but does not mind being cut back.  The only warning is that it looks dead right up to March so don’t give up on it, it suddenly takes off and every bumble seems to like it.

Nostaw

     
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a 6ft Salvia? That’s amazing!

     
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Malcolm - 03 September 2012 09:24 PM

a 6ft Salvia? That’s amazing!

another one to go on my shopping list I think.

     
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Great observations Nostaw.
Thank you for sharing them.

Tree bumblebees (Bombus hypnorum) have a shorter busy season than other species and can be finished as early as July in some places.
The Early bumblebees (Bombus pratorum) are named for finishing so early in the season. New males and females can be seen at the end of May!
I believe Garden bumblebees (Bombus hortorum) can finish fairly promptly as well.

In contrast, the Common carder bees (Bombus pascuorum) have a more prolonged season as they start early enough but don’t create the same number of workers as other species. It is normal to still see them at this time of year. On my street anyway there is very little about apart from male carder bees. Buff-tailed bumblebees (B terrestris) have a fairly long season too.

You don’t often see new queens collecting pollen. I believe they mostly feed themselves to build up their fat stores. Although apparently they can do a limited amount of foraging for the colony but I don’t know if this is nectar and/or pollen.

Regards, elaine

     
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ooooh I didn’t know that Queens foraged occasionally once the colony was established…I thought that all the Queens I see foraging are either just waking from hibernation in Spring, or newly hatched in the Summer. Just shows how little I know smile Thanks Elaine…I’ve only been able to find a few books about bumble bees…and two of those are from the BBTC. There must be more literature out there? not scientific papers or anything…but I would like to find out more.

     
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The best BB book I have ever purchased is Ted Benton’s “Bumblebees”. It is part of the reprinted New Naturalists series that I have always loved. Collins publish it. Search on Amazon for a cheaper version. It’s a tome, but very readable.
best wishes.