Did you know that there are around 250 species of bee in the UK! They are split into three groups: bumblebees, honeybees and solitary bees. The humble bumblebee is usually larger and is always covered in dense hair. There are 24 species of bumblebee so if you are interested in learning more about insects, these guys would be a nice place to start.
They live in nests which can be above or below ground. You might have them nesting in your garden; under your shed or in a compost heap. If you see swarms of them flying around outside their nest – don’t be alarmed these will be the males waiting for females to come out so that they can mate. Male bumblebees don’t sting so you are perfectly safe. A well established nest can contain up to 400 bees which is tiny in comparison to honeybees which can have a hive up to 50,000.
At this time of year the nest will have produced their first brood of offspring. These will all be ‘worker’ females. These diligent, hardworking little bees will carry out maintenance work and be on guard duty. Their job is to look after the queen and the nest in preparation for the second brood that will hatch out in late summer. This brood will consist of new queens and also males for reproduction. The males are pretty lazy, bumbling about, and they don’t normally return back to their nest. Their function in life is feeding and attempting to mate. Most of them never do!
If you would like to find out more about bumblebees I would recommend you visit the Bumblebee Conservation Trust website at bumblebeeconservation.org. There is also a great book written by Dave Goulson (a leading expert in bumblebees) called A Sting in the Tale which was released last year.
Laura Preston – Scottish Wildlife Trust, Falls of Clyde Ranger