All about the bees blog

The views, opinions and positions expressed within this blog are those of the author alone. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors or omissions.

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Short-haired bumblebee blog

by Dr Nikki Gammans, Short-haired Bumblebee Project Manager.

The Short-haired bumblebee project has had a busy summer this year surveying bumblebees, engaging farmers, surveying habitat and carrying out practical management of a few selected sites. This season we have a project officer for the summer months Dr Gemma Baron who recently completed her PhD with Prof Mark Brown from Royal Holloway University of London. We also have a master’s student placement for 6 weeks Jordan Connor who is studying at Bournemouth University. Her role is to GIS map bumblebee distribution across Dungeness, and thankfully she plans to stay on and help us as a volunteer once her placement has finished.

Jordan (left) and Gemma (right) surveying for bumblebees at Dungeness.

Male Ruderal bumblebee (Bombus ruderatus) found at MoneyPenny Farm, E. Sussex by Gemma Baron

After a slow start to spring we travelled to Sweden to begin our collection of Short-haired bumblebee queens emerging from hibernation. Unfortunately weather conditions were very poor and emergence was delayed. We also found disease prevalence to be high this year in the queens we collected, which unfortunately meant that many of the queens collected died during quarantine. The remaining 25 queens were released on the 1st June and observations were made and recorded over the four days after the bees release. During this time we suspect they had dispersed to find a nesting site. We are now searching for workers.

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Are allotments really bee-friendly? A Guest blog from Emma Nelson

Emma Nelson joined BBCT as a volunteer earlier this year, and writes and gardens as a hobby. She wrote this article as an appeal to her local Allotments Association, to highlight how, despite providing an amazing food supply for pollinators for much of the year, gardens and plots can fail to sustain bumblebees at crucial points in their lifecycle.

Garden Bumblebee (Bombus hortorum) feeding on Red Clover (Trifolium pratense).

Think you know how to garden for bees on your allotment? Think again. I'm a big fan of gardening for bees, - bumblebees and wild bees in particular (they, not the honeybee, pollinate 2/3 of our crops that require pollinating). The more I read, the more I realise how almost arrogantly assuming I have been about their dietary requirements (just because they happen to visit my Eryngium, strawbs, lavender, or any of the abovementioned flowers that I happen to like and have come across as bee-friendly).

I had the great pleasure of meeting an experienced gardener, entomologist and volunteer with the Bumblebee Conservation Trust at Leicester University's Botanic Gardens at the end of May. Maggie began gardening aged 6, when her dad allocated a portion of their just post-war allotment to each of the children, "I grew flowers and sold them, I got to keep the earnings off it".

Maggie was taking a group of us on a bumblebee identification trail around the glorious gardens. We had an ident sheet of the 8 "common bumblebees" we were likely to see (there are 24 UK species). Maggie was worried about one of them, the Garden Bumblebee (bombus hortorum). "I haven't seen it in my garden much this year", she explained, "I think it's also now in danger. It's one of the species with very long tongues, and the flowers they like are becoming less common" - and will continue to do so, if the bees that pollinate them decline.

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The Hairy-footed flower bee

The blog post this month is submitted by Aoife O’Rourke, Conservation Officer for SW England.

This month I have decided to write about the hairy footed flower bee (Anthophora plumipes) as this year we have received many emails asking for help to identify this ‘strange small black bumblebee’.

Although the Hairy-footed flower bee can easily be confused for a bumblebee - it is in fact a species of solitary bee. It is roughly the same size as a bumblebee and quite stout with a dense furry body.

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Few and far between

The blog post this month is submitted by Sinead Lynch Conservation Officer for Wales.

In 2013 I was contacted by Charlie Elder, an author, journalist and wildlife enthusiast. He was travelling the length and breadth of the country trying to find twenty five of Britain's rarest and most endangered species, and he was compiling his journey into a book called ‘Few and far between’. As part of his book, he wanted me to help him find the very rare Shrill carder bee – no pressure.

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Moving on

After over three years at the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, I have decided that it’s time to move on to some new challenges. While I’ll be very sad to say goodbye to my workmates and volunteers, I’ll be looking forward to seeing a bit more of the world – and of course taking the bumblebee message to new audiences!

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