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Tree Bumblebee (B. hypnorum) SUMMER/AUTUMN colonies

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Dear Forum Users,

I’d like to start a new B. hypnorum Thread to see if we can gather some comments and data about SUMMER / AUTUMN colonies of this bee.

Each spring it gets going in about March and we see Nest Surveillance activity by the male bees (Drones) from perhaps mid-May through to early July - and maybe a little later.  And the spring colonies I’ve known have all died out in about July.

But this species can be “Double Brooded” - in other words a second generation of colonies is established by a few queens from this year. And my latest sighting of the species was on 28th October 20110.

The spring colonies of the species frequently nests in Bird Boxes, in House Eaves / Soffit Boxes where the drone activity draws attention to the colony.

Has anybody seen active colonies, or similar Drone Activity of the species in late July/August/September ?

I’d love to hear some comments !

Clive

     
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Thanks for posting this, Clive! We do get many questions about the Tree bumblebee, so it’s great that we can start to fill the gaps in the knowledge by collecting all of these observations.

     
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Clive - 18 July 2012 10:50 PM

or similar Drone Activity of the species in late July/August/September ?

Hi Clive

Not quite “late July” but I got my first (& second) ever Tree Bee sightings on 21/07/12, seen in a small urban park here in Blackpool, Lancs. There have been a good number of Tree Bee sightings here in Blackpool this year, but it took me many weeks to finally hook up with one - & that was thanks to a clued up pal of mine.

I only managed to photo the smaller of the two Tree Bees seen, see attached & I hope this is of interest.

Regards

Cliff

 

     

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Saw loads of tree bumble’s up until about a week ago, since then no sightings of them at all. I live in Swindon, Wilts.

They were the most common bee in my garden until last week.

Hope this helps.

     
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Well I think I had my first garden sighting of a Tree Bee earlier today - here in Blackpool, Lancs. A single bee feeding on buddleja, see photos attached & I’m happy to stand corrected if I’ve miss ID’d it.

Also a naturalist pal of mine had a sighting of a Tree Bee in his garden yesterday, so it would appear they’re still out & about here in North West Lancs.

Cheers

Cliff grin

     

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Great photo’s Cliff and it is a tree bumble, well spotted.

Glad to hear they are still going strong in Lancs!

     
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I have Tree Bumblebees nesting under the eaves of my house.  I noticed them for the first time today. I’m hoping they’ll go away soon, as I’ve read they can be aggressive.

     
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Hi Mary,

Your report is VERY interesting.

Please would you describe in more detail what you are seeing, it could be a key bit of information !
And is there any chance of a photo ?


If the bees are high up and out of your way, don’t worry about aggression - unless you cause them to worry, you are at very minimal risk.

You might find it useful to take a look at the main B. hypnorum thread (with over 1000 hits) there’s quite a bit of info on them there.

Looking forward to hearing from you !

Yours

Clive

     
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I took some photos yesterday, leaning out of the bedroom window. They’re not very clear, but I think you can see the colours well enough to identify the bees.

We had heavy rain this morning. When the sun came out later there were lots of bees coming and going. Perhaps they had to make up for lost time. The bees were of various sizes, some bigger and some smaller.

Mary

PS My first post may have given the impression that the nest is visible under the eaves. It’s not. I see the bees landing on the roof beams, then they crawl up and out of sight. I suppose the nest is inside the loft, but haven’t been up there yet to check.

     

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Hi Mary,

Thanks for coming back with the photos and further information.
The bees are definitely B. hypnorum (Tree Bumblebee).

I’m torn between telling you what to look for and the “purer scientific viewpoint” of waiting for you to describe what I think you will be seeing.
But science wins for me !

I would be interested to hear your description of the flight activity - and to see any photos of it.

It is interesting to hear that they are “landing off” then walking to their nest entrance. 
Often this species sets up home in old Blue Tits nests in Bird Boxes and then they just whiz back and forward from the nest hole.
But there is something else you might notice too !
(Although it may be rather early in the colony cycle for it to be happening yet !)
Can you spot any activity like this as well as flying then landing and crawling / walking ?

I look forward to hearing any further comments !

Yours

Clive

     
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I wrote quite a long reply, but it seems to have disappeared. I’ll try again.

Bees arrive about 1 per minute. They all seem to enter the nest, some directly, others fly around for a few seconds, as if unsure exactly where to go, before landing. It seemed that bees were slower to enter when I had the window open.

There is no “swarm” of bees outside guarding the nest or waiting for queens, and I haven’t seen any mating.

Bees leaving the nest fly much faster, and are harder to spot.

 

     
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Thank you for the further information Mary - and my apologies for taking so long to get back to you.

If you were to look at the main B. hypnorum discussion thread, you will see that a characteristic behaviour pattern with this species is for a cloud of bees to gather in the air outside the nest location. 
If you were to watch what the bees in the cloud are doing, you should see that there are a few bees flying from and to the nest, but that most of them hang around in a “dancing cloud of bees” where they are mainly facing the nest.  The cloud oscillates in position with little or no direct to/from nest bee-movements: but bees join the throng at intervals, coming in from elsewhere; or leave it, going on to another nest cloud.
This is known technically as “Nest Surveillance behaviour” or “Lekking”.

This activity is by the male bees (drones) which are usually noticeably bigger than the workers.  Occasionally they make a dash to get close (check-out) bees approaching, or leaving the nest; and can then grapple with the bee of interest and sometimes fall to the ground.  They are waiting to mate with virgin queens, which are noticeably large.

The presence of cloud is weather dependent and daylight dependent, but in early summer can last all day and for many days.  As the colony dies out, or drone numbers overall are falling (which occurs towards the end of the activity cycle) the “drone cloud” may be down to one or two visitors and be occasional/transient, not constant.

I would be most grateful if you could keep your eyes open and let us know if you were to see such activity, since I’m not aware that it has been reported with “second generation colonies” such as you have.
(But I’ll be amazed if it doesn’t occur !)

I hope this helps.

And I’ll try to add a photo of such a cloud by editing this post .

Yours               Clive

     

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This is a quick update on the Tree Bumbles nesting in my roof.

There are still bees coming and going from the nest, though there do seem to be bigger gaps between arrivals in the last few days - perhaps one every 2 or 3 minutes now. It was quite cold last night, so perhaps that slowed them down.

Still no sign of any “dancing cloud of bees”.

How do nests usually die? Do numbers tail off gradually, or is there a sudden end?

     
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Hi Mary,

My apologies for taking so long to get back to you - time has flown.

The nests that I’ve had have been in Bird Boxes and have just dwindled away slowly. 
I’ve seen this mainly as a reduction in numbers and “dwell-time” of the drone bees that visit to inspect the neat activity on their rounds (circuits) of what I presume are all the local nests.

If the colony gets strong enough to rear ‘reproductives’ I guess it will have kept going for around 2- 3 months.
And if the ‘reproductives’ are queens , you will see these as much larger bees coming and going at irregular intervals.

And if there are drones present in the air close to the nest at the time the queens fly, they chase after the queen and try to mate: and in doing so will fall to the ground, or some other surface below the nest entrance (or close-by).

Someone who has seen this process has described it as looking like the bees are fighting !
(I’ve attached a photo of a mating attempt that I was lucky enough to see - but they flew away to somewhere private almost immediately afterwards ! )

If the nest gets infested by wax moth caterpillars (Aphomia sociella) you might notice a sudden appearance of what looks like cobwebs around the nest entrance: but it may be too late in the year for the moths to be active and take over your nest.

The main message you’ve given me is that you haven’t seen any Nest Surveillance by the Drones - which is perhaps a pointer that this Drone Nest Surveillance is mainly associated with spring-established colonies, and not the second generation later ones like you have had.

Any extra further feedback would be very useful !

Yours           Clive

     

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