All about the bees blog

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An update from our Somerset Volunteers

This week we have a special article from John, our Local Volunteer Co-ordinator in Somerset. John does a great job looking after our volunteers in the area, which is also home to the Shrill carder bee - one of the most endangered species of bumblebee in the UK. He sent this update to the volunteers he works with back in October, but we've published it here again to share his good work, and hopefully inspire some of you to volunteer with the Trust. If you live in the Somerset area and would like to get involved, email the group at somersetvolunteers@bumblebeeconservation.org

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BeeWalk 2015 - Review of the year

By Dr Richard Comont, Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Data Monitoring Officer

First and foremost I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone that has been involved in this year’s BeeWalk survey. BeeWalk continues to grow from strength to strength, and that’s only possible because volunteers are willing to go out and monitor their local bumblebees for us – thank you!

BeeWalk is the Bumblebee Conservation Trust’s national recording scheme, which monitors the abundance of bumblebees across the UK.  The survey would be impossible without dedicated BeeWalk volunteers, who identify and count the bumblebees they see on an hour’s walk each month from March to October.

If there was one word to describe 2015, it would probably be ‘patchy’. A later spring than 2014 delayed things slightly and the season didn’t really get going until a week of sunshine during Easter.  After that it was a case of two steps forward, one step back as sunny days were replaced by gloomy skies, often several times in the same week.  This had an impact on the spring species like the Early bumblebee, which saw numbers fall – this was probably inevitable after the record-breaking spring of 2014 and represents a reversion to the mean rather than a worrying issue.

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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.

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Bumblebees and Flowers: A Complex Relationship

We have a special guest article from Dick Alderson, who has been recording bumblebees at the same site since 2008 .  He has made some interesting observations about the flowers that the bees prefer to visit...

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