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Spring 2017 Bumblebees.

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Hallo Kevin and Urbanbumble

Kevin - you haven’t told us what species of bumblebees you have been seeing in your garden in Carmarthenshire so far.  Have you seen any workers?

Yesterday (Tuesday 18 April) on a walk through mixed countryside along the valley of the River Pang west of Reading there were several B.hortorum queens and B.pascuorum queens on white dead nettle on roadside verges.  Very little else.  In a small village there was a ditch full of comfrey (a garden escapee) in full sunshine at midday.  Warm in the sunshine but a cool wind blowing.  There were 4 different kinds of workers.  There were several B.pratorum, a few B.terrestris, one B.hypnorum and one B.hortorum.  Also several B.hortorum and B.hortorum queens and one B.lapidarius queen.  Elsewhere just one B.terrestris queen nest searching.  These workers reflect what I am also seeing in NE Hampshire.

In my garden I have an old refurbished bird nesting box which has been cleaned out and restocked with suitable nesting material for bumblebees.  On 4 days during the last week I have seen a B.hypnorum queen going into this box and I am hopeful that she will soon successfully establish a nest.  I also put a bumblebee nest box under my garden shed (very awkward to observe).  During the last two days there have been a small number of workers leaving and entering.  I think this is a B.hortorum nest - but have still to confirm this.

SteveF
21:50   Wednesday 19 April 2017
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Steve F

I have seen workers in my garden - B.pratorum in small numbers, as well as B.hypnorum and B.lucorum workers. The last two species are from two occupied nest boxes in my garden. I have a camera in the hypnorum nest box.  Hortorum and pascuroum queens around but no workers yet.

The lucorum nest is quite interesting. A lucorum queen set up in a schwegler nest box in March. She raised a few workers and on Saturday (22 April) everything was fine. I was away for four nights and on my return checked the nestbox. I found the lucorum queen dead on the surface of the nesting material, but a terrestris female was seen on the nesting material (wed. 26 April).
Today (Fri 28th) I noticed a terrestris queen making orientation flight in front of this nestbox. I later opened up the box and found a dead terrestris but another terrestris came out of the nest material. Obviously some usurping going on.
What I find interesting is that the workers present must be lucorum, who have presumably adopted the terrestris queen, but this species will die out if and when the terrestris queen is successful in rearing her own offspring.

I am currently seeing terrestris queens nest searching and I wonder if these queens are just looking to usurp established nests. It certainly beats setting up your own nest from scratch !

SteveF, would be interested to hear about your nest boxes, what type they are, do you disguise the entrances and what material you put in side ?

Regards


Kevin

 

     
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Hi Steve & Kevin,
All I’ve seen here during the last few days have been a B. terrestris queen searching; and a Bombus hypnorum worker, foraging around the flower borders - green alkanet I think..  I know of no bumble nests here in the garden.  Elsewhere in VC55, there have been sightings of female cuckoos, both Bombus vestalis and Bombus sylvestris.  Have either of you seen any female cuckoo bumbles where you are?  The timing is just about right for them to be checking out active host colonies to take over.  Anthophora plumipes male & female are still around the Pulmonaria,  Erysimum Bowles Mauve and Prunus Amanagawa.  Urbanbumble

     
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Hallo Kevin and Urbanbumble

Kevin - a very interesting story about your B.lucorum/terrestris nest!

Nearly all my nest boxes are home made from heavy planed untreated timber based on Naturalist’s Handbook No.6, “Bumblebees” by Prys-Jones and Corbet, Page 24, Section 4.2 “Making a Nest Box”.  I use an entrance hole diameter of only 17mm (not 25mm).  The boxes have been painted outside and then weathered for 6 months before use.  Felt on roof.  Fine metal mesh in the bottom of both chambers.  Variously modified over several years.  Outside “rusticated” to provide some camouflage.  Some boxes fitted at one stage with a long wide entrance pipe sloping downwards and the entrance hidden in a pile of logs (since removed).  Boxes sometimes hidden by logs.  Not very successful.  Boxes near the ground are frequently occupied by bank voles, shrews and wood-mice.  Boxes with nests in have also been attacked by local cats and/or foxes.

I also have a few old bird boxes.  Two bird boxes modified with narrow tunnel entrances (17mm).  The top of the bird table has also been modified.  A large tree stump has a large paving stone to make it water tight.  In spite of these various efforts I do not get much success.

Nesting material is kapok, dry moss, good quality dry hay, straw, dry oak leaves, etc.  I do not think it is critical.
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Urbanbumble - B.vestalis has been around in NE Hants since late March.  The most recent sighting was two days ago when we saw two host nest searching on the bank of a lane near Selborne.  I have only seen one female B.sylvestris, enticed out by warm weather just before Easter.  This is not unusual to see so few.  We usually see a few males later on.

The number of Anthrophora plumipes has passed its spring peak here.  We recently found a small nesting aggregation of A.plumipes.  This was on a very rough path made of coarse flint cobbles in front of a house wall facing south east into the morning sunshine.  Five females were entering the cracks between the cobbles, with just one male in the vicinity.  Near Winchester.
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At present I have one established B.hypnorum nest in an old bird box.  Probably a B.hortorum nest under the garden shed.  Another B.hypnorum started a nest in another bird box but this seems to have failed at the first hurdle.

SteveF
Tues 02 May 2017
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Hi Steve & Kevin,
At last, noticed an active nest of B. hypnorum in the blue tit box on the trellis fence.  The workers are foraging all kinds of flowers around the garden. 
urbanbumble