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My development into a bumblebee guide. A guest blog from BBCT volunteer Cliff Hepburn

I'm a BBCT volunteer and have been giving guided bumblebee walks and talks in East Sussex for about one year, starting in July 2014. However, my first introduction to bumbles came from a 1-day Wildlife Trust ID course in 2012 presented by Mike Edwards of ID-book fame. Whilst this course was both educational and enjoyable, I did not develop this introduction any further at that time. My current interest only began to blossom last Summer when I was volunteering with another group. During a task day, we cut down some heavy growth (mainly tall thistles) inadvertently near a hidden nest of red-tails, resulting in a large number of workers zigzagging around looking for the disturbed nest entrance. This unfortunate activity triggered me to renew my interest, first by improving my ID skills, then carrying out surveys, and finally becoming a guide for walks and talks. The following briefly describes how I developed both my general knowledge and my field skills to enable me to become a guide.

To get started, I developed my basic general knowledge by a lot of self-study using websites and books. I gained my basic field experience, including how to safely net and pot, by simply taking walks on my own to observe bumbles and practice my ID skills. I also attended a walk given by an experienced staff guide, Sam Page, and I recommend all trainee guides to do the same if they can. Once I gained modest ID ability, I started to do monthly surveys for the Bee Walk scheme. This was very useful as it strengthened my ID ability. I then offered to present a walk to a local volunteer group - my debut - so I prepared for this in detail.