Helping a Tree Bumblebee in need

Yesterday morning, Friday, Christine Sofianos of Forge Cottages in Limpsfield found a very groggy Tree Bumblebee queen in her garden and gave it sustenance to help it on its way.  The warm weather is bringing out the Bumblebees from hibernation, but they still struggle with the cold mornings. 

“I gave her sugar water, but that didn’t help much,” said Christine. “I then put her in a clear plastic tub in the sunshine. Once the sugar and warmth had done their bit, she flew away. So we’re hoping there will be a new Tree Bumblebee colony in Limpsfield soon.”

These groggy Queens will all be emerging from hibernation now, and find it difficult with the temperatures going up and down, so keep an eye out for them.

The Tree Bumblebee or Bombus hypnorum to its mates, arrived in the UK about 15 years ago and has spread rapidly. The tree bumble bee doesn’t appear to be damaging any of our native bee populations. According to Opal Explore Nature, it is “a very effective pollinator, so it’s a welcome new arrival.”

How can you spot one?  Queens can be up to 22mm long and are emerging now, whereas the worker bees follow on a little later.  They have a very distinctive colour pattern of orange (head), black, white (tail).

Opal Explore Nature (The Open Air Laboratories a UK-wide citizen science initiative that allows you to get hands-on with nature) says:  “Tree Bumblebees eat nectar and pollen, preferring wide-open flowers such as daisies rather than narrow tube-like flowers such as foxgloves. They nest in tree holes and other suitable structures including empty bird boxes. The queen lays eggs in spring. These hatch into worker bees, which are all female. The workers bring nectar and pollen to the nest to feed future broods of young. Sting-less males hatch during late spring and early summer, and mate with new queens.”

The new queens hibernate in autumn and winter, emerging in the spring to start a new generation of bees.

Keep a look out and don’t forget to help a bee in need!

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