The elusive Blaeberry bumblebee

Earlier this week I finally made it out to see the bumblebee meadow at RSPB's Vane Farm Reserve. Situated on the shores of Loch Leven (the lake where Mary Queen of Scots was held prisoner),  this wonderful meadow was created a few years ago, and has been described as 'The World's first bumblebee sanctuary'. Remarkably, the Blaeberry bumbleebee had been found foraging on the flowers there shortly after it was created. The Blaeberry bumblebee is fairly scarce, but is found in the hills close to the meadow, where the queens forage from the blaeberry flowers in spring.

I have yet to see that species myself, so when the chance to hold a bumblebee identification training day at the reserve came up, I jumped at the chance! I had high hopes that I'd finally get to see this species, but unfortunately it wasn't to be (this time!). I even took a trek up the hills afterwards (with the help of George, who has been surveying bumblebees here for a few years), but the Blaeberry bumblebee still eluded us. I did find plenty of blaeberries to eat though!

The bumblebee meadow in bloom

Some of the other people attending the event have been doing Bee walks at the reserve, where they've been recording the Blaeberry bumblebee for several years. Probably because of this year's wet weather, this species has hardly been seen at all this year. We'll have to wait for final few months of Bee walk results, but it looks like it's been a very poor year for bumblebees in general. This is a perfect illustration of the use of Bee walk, though - by recording the numbers of bees seen, we are able to learn something about how populations of bumblebees are responding to things such as weather, land use change, or anything else that may affect populations. To learn more about how to get involved in our bumblebee surveys, click here.

So, I didn’t get to see the Blaeberry bumblebee, but I’m more than content that I go bee-watching in the meadows and the heather-covered hills that rush down to the loch.  Every day is a good day when you’re doing something you love!

The heather-covered hills near Loch Leven


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