Bombus cupcakes L.
This week the office has had a rare sighting of a lesser known and more delicious species of our bees. As part of Cake Club Caroline Ford one of our Ecologists brought in these fantastic (though probably short lived) Bumble Bee Cupcakes.
Bumble Bee Species
By now no doubt you have seen a few Bumble Bees out and around the gardens! Whilst bees can sting they are largely very passive and will not attack unless provoked. These Bumble Bees may seem rather skinny, this is because they are the first of this year’s brood to hatch and are currently underfed. They will be bringing the first food back to the hive and the queen who has made the nest herself after enduring hibernating over winter alone. There are many types of Bumble Bee living very different lives, wait until late morning to see them after they use the heat from the sun to assist warm them up for flight. Different species of bees live in different locations, Miner Bees who make nests underground, Carder bees such as the Common Carder (Bombus pascorum) who use old mouse nests or clumps of grass. Bumble bee nests do not look like the orderly honeycombs of Honey Bees, they are more like a clutch of eggs. Here is a picture of a Tree Bee (Bombus hyponorum) nest inside a bird box.
Bumble Bees are often good pollinators in place of a friendly beekeeper as they can find homes anywhere and some (most notably the Carder Bee) will brave some of our less summery days.
Several species of the Carder Bee can be seen in flower rich grasslands in the South of England, of which two are of conservation concern (The Brown-Banded Carder and the Shrill Carder). These bees are in decline due to advances in agricultural efficiency resulting in the lack of scrubland, less land in set aside and the removal of hedgerows. This can be remedied by the use of traditional farming techniques, such as planting nitrogen fixing plants amongst crops to help keep the soil nutrient rich and providing pollinators flowering plants. The Brown banded and Shrill Carder Bees (which are listed as rare and endangered respectively) specifically are part of a UK BAP (Biodiversity Action Plan) along with 5 other bumble bees that require sward (open grassland) management. These bees live in habitats that have specific management requirements such as seasonal flailing and no grazing from cattle during the flowering season. Making sure that such management is undertaken helps to encourage many varieties of pollinators, not just those kept by beekeepers. Pollinators are important to both current habitats and agriculture. The work of pollinators for agricultural purposes has been valued at £690M per year, without them many of the crops grown here would have to be imported.
What Can I do To Help Bees?
There are things you can do at home to help local bee populations without going so far as to needing a bee suit and many stings.
• Plant a large variety of flowering plants
o By planting many different plant you can provide pollen and nectar for pollinators most of the year round, and with a wide variety of flower shapes and heights you can cater to many species too
• Keep a Bird bath or add stones to shallow a pond
o Pollinators need water too, especially during heat waves, but they can’t land in deep water so add some large stones to a shallow pond, or in a bird bath and you will see bees come in for a drink.
• Don’t cut the grass
o By letting the grass grow you can make homes for Carder bees and encourage some of their favourite flowers such as clover
There are many other things you can do to help encourage bees in your area.
If you are experiencing trouble with bee swarms or would like to know more, contact us and one of our team will be happy to help.