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Tree Bumblebee (B. hypnorum) 2014 Notes

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Hi All,

On Springwatch Unsprung this evening on BBC2, they showed a short video of a Blue Tit interacting with a probable Tree Bumblebee Queen in a nest box. 
It was about half way through the programme.  It looked as though the bee won !

Do watch it on BBC IPlayer !

Clive

     
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Clive

The video on spring watch was very interesting - can understand why the birds may decide not to use the box !

Unfortunately the colony of B. hypnorum I previously mentioned in a bird box in my garden has died out. I took a look into the box but no obvious reasons.  The colony started off relatively well, then I had other queens entering the nest, and recently I noticed that there were fewer and fewer workers being seen. Maybe the queen died.
I do have some hypnorum workers in the garden feeding on a variety of plants. I had also previously observed a queen entering the roof space of my bungalow but this queen has not been seen for sometime now, presumed dead/deserted. I was looking forward to seeing a male ‘swarm’ but maybe next year.

I currently have three active nests in my garden, a hortorum, a terrestris and a pratorum.

have you any active nests ?

Kevin

     
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Hi everyone, I have just found and joined this forum today. A few days ago I noticed bees coming and going under our soffits. I’ve done lots of ‘reading up’ and now feel quite excited they are here. We identified them as tree bumblebees.  We have two daughters 2&7, they have become very interested too. Initially I was worried whether the bees would do any damage where they have nested but now feel quite happy they wont.  There are always 4/5 bees hovering around the nest and this afternoon one bee (not sure if it was the queen or not but was very large) landed down on the ground then proceeded to walk up the wall to the nest, amazing to watch.

Sam

     
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I’ve also just joined today.  I have a nest behind an air brick outside the kitchen wall; they’ve been here quite a while now and must have started producing sexuals about three or more weeks ago, as there started to be drone clouds and on more than one occasion I observed queens fly out and get taken to the ground by an attentive male.  So I think the colony is nearly over, as the size of the drone cloud has been diminishing in the last few days.  I’m consciouus that the very mild winter probably meant they started it sooner than in a normal year.  I live in Malvern, Worcs.

     
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I was quite surprised to find this hypnorum queen since I’ve not seen any now since 4th August.

     

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Second generation nest of Bombus hypnorum.

I have strong evidence of a second generation nest of B.hypnorum somewhere close to my garden in N.E.Hampshire.  During the first 4 weeks of August I saw a very small number of either B.hypnorum workers or queens.  However for the last 25 days I have been seeing queens or workers on an almost daily basis.  On Friday 12 Sept this seemed to reach a peak with four new queens nectaring on symphoricarpus at the same time. As late as 16 Sept three queens were seen foraging simultaneously.  The number of workers (or possibly males on a few occasions) has been much smaller.  The nest is now in obvious decline.  Today there was just 1 queen and 1 worker.  The latest date on which I have seen a worker in any previous year is 22 August so today’s observation is more than 4 weeks later than this.

Has anyone else been aware of a second generation nest?  I think that James Riall’s B.hypnorum queen (17 Sept) was probably from a second generation nest.

SteveF
21 Sept 2014
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I think there’s another second generation nest on Shapwick Heath NNR: yesterday I found 4 fresh queens feeding on a comfrey patch. It was interesting comparing their behaviour with that of pascuorum workers feeding on the same plants. The pascuorum workers were much busier and flew from flower to flower whilst the hypnorum queens were much more bumbling. One climbed from flower to flower rather than flying.  I’ve not seen hypnorum workers since 4th August anywhere, so seeing new queens is quite unexpected!

     
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Hello James

A very interesting observation.  Four fresh B.hypnorum queens all feeding on comfrey at the same time certainly sounds like a second generation nest somewhere close by.  Did you get any impression of where the nest might have been?  Are there any buildings, houses, Visitor Centre, bird hides, bird nesting boxes close by, or was it well out on the Reserve where the nest is more likely to be in a hollow willow or alder tree, etc?  I have visited Shapwick Heath NNR in the past and remember a large area of fenland.  My own observation were made at the edge of suburban housing with old gravel pits close by.  I suspect my nest was in a shed, house, etc.

SteveF
27 Sept 2014

     
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Hi Steve,

We found these queens on the north side of the reserve in the Meare Heath area, which is basically dugout peat beds that are now full of reeds and patches of water.  We were on the track running along the east side of Meare Heath wood. I’m not sure if there are any nestboxes in the wood, but there are some disused buildings from the peat digging days and probably plenty of holes in trees for them to nest in. However, whilst doing beewalks along the South Drain near here, I have often noticed that there’s a lot of movement north-south over Meare Heath, with bumblebees flying to feed along the South Drain, so the nest could actually be well to the north - maybe even in Meare village.  I would guess, though, that new queens would be more likely to disperse over distance, so seeing several together would make it more likely that the nest was in the Meare Heath wood, I reckon.

In general Meare Heath isn’t very good for bumblebees except along the track through the woods up to Meare Heath hide. Out on the tracks through the dugout peat beds the only flowers are patches of comfrey and quantities of willow. It could be a good area for nests - there are plenty of holes in the banks.

We were returning from doing water vole surveys further up the track and ironically, I’d just said to my companion that I didn’t expect to see many more bumblebees this year (except for a few pascuorum)!

Regards,

James

     
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Hello James

Thanks for your reply.  From your description of the site and the fact that several queens were foraging at the same time I would agree with you that it is most likely that this second generation nest was in a hollow tree.  This contrasts with the situation in early spring.  Queens emerging form hibernation forage on cultivated flowers in gardens when there are very few wild flowers available in the open countryside.  They then tend to nest in houses, buildings, nest boxes, etc. It may be that they exploit the warmth and shelter of a house, roof space, etc to get the nest off to an early start.

Recent B.hypnorum activity quickly declined here quickly with the last queen seen on Tuesday 23 Sept.  No further activity was seen until today.  At midday and early this afternoon there were two B.hypnorum queens foraging together on symphoricarpus in bright warm sunshine!

SteveF
1 October 2014