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Spring 2017 Bumblebees.

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Dear All

This New Topic has been opened in the hope of gathering your observations of queen bumblebees as they emerge during Spring 2017 and establish their new nests.  There have already been some reports during the early Spring, which can be found on this Forum in   “Bumblebee activity in late Autumn 2016 and Winter 2016/2017”.

Beautiful sunny day today in North East Hampshire with quite a lot of bumblebee activity - two B.hypnorum queens collecting pollen.  Also Anthrophora plumipes and the first Bombylius major of the year.

SteveF
15 Mar 2017
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Hi SteveF,
The wind has been strong and cold these last couple of days, but I have still seen a B. terr queen, and a dark form of B. hyp queen, searching for nest sites; and the male and female Anthophora plumipes are busy too. Keep watch!  Urbanbumble

     
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Hallo Urbanbumble

Good to hear that your bumblebees in the Leicester area are still active, even if the weather has not been very good.  I have also seen a few B.hypnorum queens this spring with dark colouration on the thorax.

In North East Hampshire and the surrounding area the weather during the first half of March has been on the mild side.  Only the odd day with good sunshine, but no frosts.  In consequence there are plenty of early spring flowers starting to show in the gardens and even some wild flowers in the countryside (sallow, gorse, primroses, etc).

All the “Big Six” bumblebees and B,hypnorum are now active in N.E.Hants.  Some queens of B,terrestris, B.pratorum and B.hypnorum are now collecting pollen.  The first B.lapidarius was seen near Alton on 9 Mar with two more seen yesterday near Windsor.  The first B.hortorum was also seen on 9 Mar.  The first B.pascuorum queen was seen here on 17 Mar with another one yesterday.  B.lucorum is also active.  The bonus yesterday was the first female B.vestalis.  This is definitely early for this part of the country.  I have also seen a few B.jonellus queens collecting pollen on winter heathers (even one this morning when it was overcast, breezy, mild and damp - before rain and colder, clearer air arrived this afternoon).  All this seems to show that the bumblebees in this area are acting as though Spring is just around the corner.

Of the non-bumblebee signs of spring, the first female Anthrophora plumipes was seen collecting pollen on 17 Mar.  Just one Bombylius major on 15 Mar.  Queens of the common social wasps Vespula vulgaris active .  The first Andrena fulva yesterday.

The forecast for the next few days is for much colder weather which will certainly put the brakes on for any bumblebee activity.  I hope we do not suffer any frosts that damage the flowers which are already out.

SteveF
20:05   Monday 20 Mar 2017
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Hi SteveF,
Still limited to three species as before - B. terr, B.hyp. and B. pratorum - all queens.  The wet weather/strong cold winds has limited bumble activity, although I’ve seen one B. hypnorum queen checking out an empty bluetit box [that they have used in previous years].  The Anthophoras [m& f] are still dashing about   I did see a Bombus pratorum queen foraging Rhododendron flowers at my local plant nursery a couple of days ago - and there was a passing sleet shower too [bouncing rain!]  at the same time!  Urbanbumble

     
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Hi All

Very quiet here in Carmarthenshire !!
Limited to terrestris at the moment.  A terrestris seen feeding on comfrey for a short time in my garden.
cold wind today, 12c but promised ‘warmer’ temperatures over weekend. Here’s hoping !

Kevin

 

     
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Hi SteveF & Kevin H,
Saw my first B. pascuorum queen of 2017 today [1.4.2017]  in the garden, foraging variegated yellow archangel ; also a B. terrestris queen and B. pratorum queen searching, at the Scraptoft Natural Burial Ground.  Strong winds with showers and occasional sunshine later.  Urbanbumble

     
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Steve, Urbanbumble

Heavy April showers today but it did brighten up later.
I think the welsh pascuorums are still tucked up !!

Had a little more activity this week with more nest searching terrestris.
Have some possible nest box occupancies but a bit early to confirm.
A pratorum, with pollen, is seen feeding from comfrey, lungwort and yellow lamium regularly so i presume she has a nest nearby.
A lapidarius also seen today in local park on heather - only 2nd seen so far.

I think numbers will slowly start to build- some warm sunny days may help things along.
I have plenty of nestboxes awaiting their arrival !!

I have noticed how important the early flowering heather is to the new queens. It grows quite well around here and many gardens have it which is a bonus. I always check out the flowering heather to see what species are around. In my garden the most popular flowers are lungwort, variegated yellow dead nettle, comfrey and heather.

Keep the sightings coming !

Kevin

     
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Hallo Urbanbumble

Good to hear that spring is progressing in the Leicester area even if it is a bit slower than in the south.  Your first sighting of a B.pascuorum queen today (01 Apr) is 15 days later than mine in N.E.Hants on 17 March.  This seems to confirm a 2 or 3 week difference in bumblebee activity between the two sites.

I noted that you reported seeing your first B.pratorum queen on 15 Mar.  It will be interesting to hear when you see the first worker.  My first B.pratorum queen was seen on 20 Feb (about 3 weeks earlier than yours).  I saw my first worker on Tuesday this week (28 Mar) and again today.  This was the earliest I have seen a B.pratorum worker compared with previous years (by just a few days).

Plenty of signs of early spring here.  I have also seen a B.hypnorum worker (twice).

SteveF
Saturday 01 Apr 2017
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Hallo Kevin, Urbanbumble and all.

Kevin, I missed your posting yesterday evening.  Good to hear that there is more bumblebee activity in Camarthenshire.  I am still surprised at the differences across the country.

A fairly short walk today near Selborne (mid-Hampshire) in the “open countryside” yielded a few bumblebees.  The walk was through open deciduous woodland, fields and an old chalk pit - away from houses and gardens.  There are not many wildflowers yet (sallow, celandines, white dead nettle, a few cowslips,....).  There were 5 B.terrestris queens nest searching, 3 B.lapidarius queens nest searching and 2 B.pascuorum queens foraging.  Prolonged sunny periods and warmish at mid-day.

At home there is a wider choice of spring flowers available.  Today I saw B. pascuorum , B.hortorum and B.hypnorum queens.  There were also 2 B.pratorum workers, 1 B.hypnorum worker and 1 B.jonellus (I think?) worker.  B,jonellus queens emerged before B.hortorum queens here and were seen collecting pollen earlier, so I think B,jonellus worker is more likely.  Certainly very small and very active and difficult to observe!

First male orange tip butterfly yesterday, and two more today.

SteveF
NE Hants
22:05   Sunday 02 April 2017
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Hi Steve & Kevin,
I saw the FIRST Bombus vestalis female cuckoo of 2017 yesterday in my garden ; and a B. terrestris queen.  Still plenty of Anthophora plumipes about - two males queueing up behind a female foraging the Pulmonaria.  A. plumipes females also foraging Fritillaries, flying right up into the bells.  I’ve yet to see a B. hortorum queen, although lots of variegated yellow archangel [a favourite]  is in flower.  However, a B. hort q.  has been seen locally foraging hellebores.
Urbanbumble VC55 3.4.2017

     
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Hi Steve & Kevin,

Yet another FIRST for 2017 yesterday in my garden- a Bombus lapidarius queen foraging variegated yellow archangel…...Weather sunny but still with a cool wind.

[NB. unlike our native yellow archangel, the variegated garden sort should not be allowed to escape “over the garden fence”/ or be dumped into the wild by thoughtless composters, because although it makes great foraging for long-tongued bumbles, it is a thug and will soon spread and take over the native ground flora in a woodland]. 
Urbanbumble

     
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Hallo Urbanbumble and Kevin ( and anyone else who wants to contribute.)

Urbanbumble - you reported your first Female B. vestalis on 02 April.  I saw my first one 3 weeks earlier on 19 March - but then didn’t see another one till 6,7,8 April.  Perhaps the first one emerged too early.

You reported your first B.lapidarius on 05 April.  Mine was on 09 March but again there was a delay before the second one was sighted on 17 March.  These observations also help to confirm the time difference in bumblebee activity in the Leicester area and NE Hants.

The number of queen bumblebees of all the common species which I am currently seeing in the garden is now a lot smaller than a couple of weeks ago.  Many of the queens have fed and have now dispersed to make nests elsewhere.  I am seeing very small numbers of workers of some species already.  The most numerous are B.pratorum.  There were 5 workers on comfrey at midday today.  There were a very small number of B.hypnorum a few days ago but none since.  A few B,terrestris workers and a very small number of B,hortorum.  (I also saw B.pratorum workers in West Sussex at the weekend.)

Of the non-bumblebee signs of spring there are Anthophora plumipes every day.  Also Bombylius major.  Today’s surprise was the first female Hornet (Vespa crabro).  This is the earliest date that I have seen an emerging V.crabro (compare 19 April 2011 and 19 April 2014).  This tends to confirm that this is an early spring in many respects.  I saw a small copper butterfly in the garden on 07 April which is very unusual for this area.

SteveF
NE Hants
22:10 Wednesday 12 April 2017
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Hi SteveF,

The weather is cloudy today with strong cool winds.  There are less bumble queens around at present - hopefully setting up their nests nearby.  The only workers [2] have been Bombus pratorum.  Plenty of Anthophora females around and one or two bee flies.  Hornets would be most unusual here.
Butterflies have included orange tip, brimstone, S. tort, peacock, comma, and Holly Blue.  I haven’t seen a small copper here for years.  I hope the weather improves over Easter.  There are plenty of flowers available for bumble foraging…....Urbanbumble

     
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Hi Steve F & Kevin,
Saw the first Bombus hortorum queen of 2017 yesterday [14.4.2017].  Keeping a low profile in theintermittent sunshine but out of the strong wind and foraging variegated Yellow Archangel. which is always a favourite.  No signof B. lucorum at all.      Urbanbumble

     
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Hi All

In my garden variegated yellow dead nettle, comfrey, bugle and lungwort all popular at the moment.
Once these fade the rhododendron comes out and this is just a bombus magnet.

Anyone having any luck with occupied bumblebee boxes ? I may set up a new topic on this subject if anyone is interested ?

We have had generally dry weather but northerly breeze today pinned down the temperature. Nest searching queens have dropped off dramatically now which seems slightly quicker than normal. Numbers of queens seems to be down on previous years.
This is not really good bombus country - dairy and sheep farms with acres and acres of silage grass or overgrazed sheep fields with no wild flowers at all. Its the gardens that keep the common species going.

Kevin

     
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Hi Kevin,
I don’t have any bugle in flower, but the others you mention are really attracting the bumbles [and Anthophoras] .  I don’t have any rhododendrons [wrong soil type] but I know that the bumbles at the botanic garden love to use it.  I don’t use bumblebee boxes but I thought I saw a B. hypnorum check out a bluetit box some days ago, but haven’t seen any activity there since.  The only bumble today was a Bombus vestalis female in search mode.  Urbanbumble