Oh là là – bumblebee with a French accent arrives in Scotland

The Bumblebee Conservation Trust (BBCT) office was a-buzz with excitement last week when one of its members reported a Tree bumblebee sighting in Lennoxtown, East Dunbartonshire.

Since the Trust’s partners at Aberdeen University announced on the Beechgrove Garden that this bumbleee was likely to cross the border into Scotland, the charity has received a number of records of possible sightings. However, all had turned out to be the Common carder bumblebee.

The Tree bumblebee differs in appearance from the Common carder, which is all gingery brown. The Tree bumblebee on the other hand has a gingery brown thorax, a black abdomen and white tail – it is really quite distinctive. So when the Lennoxtown record came in the team were initially sceptical.

Left: Tree bumblebee – note the white tail.;  Right: Common carder bumblebee

However, after discussions with the Taylor family who spotted the bee, and after looking at various photographs and a sample of the bee, the sighting was confirmed as the first official record of a Tree bumblebee in Scotland.

Elaine O’Mahony, Survey’s Officer at the Bumblebee Conservation Trust says: “This is an exciting moment for bumblebee science and we are delighted that the first record of this bumblebee in Scotland has come from a Bumblebee Conservation Trust member. The Tree bumblebee arrived in England in 2001 from mainland Europe. It has been rapidly spreading north since and has attracted a lot of attention - its behaviour is quite different from that of our native bumblebees. In particular it is a big fan of nesting in bird boxes, rather than under the ground.

“We expected to receive a record of the bumblebee in Scotland last summer but when no-one reported seeing it, we assumed that the poor weather had kept it away. It is possible though that it only kept our recorders inside, meaning that the bee made it as far north as Lennoxtown before being spotted. We would love to hear about any other Scottish sightings via our BeeWatch photo survey tool - This will help us to record whether there are other populations between Lennoxtown and the border or whether this is the only colony in Scotland so far.”  

David Taylor, who submitted the record to BBCT says: “We’ve been keeping track of the bumblebees in our garden for a number of years. So when we first saw this bumblebee on our cotoneaster, we knew it was different, and immediately got out our bumblebee chart to check. We then tried to get a photo, but the bees are very active and very wary, so had to get help from our daughter, Claire, who eventually succeeded in getting a clear shot.”

Stuart Roberts from the Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society (BWARS), who runs the Tree bumblebee mapping project, added: “After a long wait, we are thrilled to know that the Tree bumblebee has finally arrived in Scotland. The record  shows just how important public involvement can be in tracking and monitoring the changing fortunes of our precious bees.”

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