Tree bumblebees buck the general trend

Amid concerns about population declines in many of our bee species, Tree bumblebees are bucking the trend by branching out further across the country.

Originally from mainland Europe, the Tree bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum) was first seen in the UK in 2001, when it was spotted in the New Forest in Hampshire. Since then it has spread rapidly and is now present in most of England and Wales.

It reached southern Scotland last year with the first recorded sighting in East Dunbartonshire in June 2013.

New sightings this year show this distinctive species - with its reddish brown thorax, black abdomen and white tail - has now spread eastwards across Scotland into Edinburgh and East Lothian.

Our data monintoring officer Dr Richard Comont says: "Hypnorum seems to be having a really good year, as is the closely-related Early bumblebee (Bombus pratorum). We've got a lot of records of hypnorum through BeeWalk so far this year - our furthest north are  from two transects in Edinburgh in early June.  At the other end of the country, the species is more numerous than ever before in Cornwall."

He added: "It's really nice to have a species arrive here on its own, rather than being transported by humans, and to have a bumblebee which is bucking the general trend by doing well and spreading out, rather than declining!

"Despite this, there's no evidence of it having any detrimental effect on native species, and the unmistakeable colouration and habit of nesting in and around gardens make it a great gateway species, enticing people into bumblebee recording!"

As well as sightings in Edinburgh, the Tree bumblebee has also been seen in East Lothian where the council's Ranger Service has been monitoring bumblebee populations following the introduction of grazing animals at four sites in Aberlady, North Berwick Law, Traprain Law and Barns Ness.

Countryside Ranger Jen Edwards, who spotted and photographed a Tree bumbleebee in her garden, said: “We have been working closely with the Bumblebee Conservation Trust and using their identification guide with our volunteers. I actually spotted and photographed a Tree bumblebee in my own garden in East Linton and later heard from one of our volunteers of a second confirmed sighting near Traprain Law. We are tremendously excited by these appearances and are sure more sightings will shortly be confirmed.”

Earlier this month we reported on research by scientists at Royal Holloway, University of London, which shows that Tree bumblebees have a stronger resistance to parasite infections than native bumblebees - allowing them to spread at an average rate of nearly 4,500 square miles (about half the size of Wales) every year. 

To learn more about the Tree bumblebee go here:

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