I have got myself all in a buzz about bumblebees these past few weeks. I recently went on a Bumblebee Identification training course with the Bumblebee Conservation Trust (BCT). Did you know there are 25 species of bumblebee in the UK? However only 19 of these are found in Scotland and most commonly you will find eight of these species. So why am I in a buzz? Well, although there may only be 19 species to look out for, there are queens, workers and males. Sometimes the queen, worker and male will look the same (eg the tree bumblebee), however sometimes they will all look slightly different (like the early bumblebee).
Don’t give up just yet though. Spring is the best time of year to start learning your bumblebees. At this time of year you are likely only to see queens looking for a nesting site. They will fly in a very purposeful zig-zagging pattern close to the ground as they are looking for somewhere to lay eggs. Queens are generally larger than workers and males. They will also have pollen baskets on their back legs, as do the female workers. The eight most common species to look out for are buff-tailed, white-tailed bumblebee, early bumblebee, red-tailed bumblebee, common carder bee, tree bumblebee, garden bumblebee and heath bumblebee. As with anything when you’re starting out, it’s best to learn the most common ones first. There is a great free printable ID guide for these eight species on the BCT website.
After having been on the training, I have been obsessively looking out for bumblebees. One thing I would recommend is having a pair of binoculars. At the weekend I was lucky enough to see a tree bumblebee which is a relative newcomer to Scotland, only arriving in 2013. My next plan is to find it here at the Falls of Clyde.
Oh and to answer the title of this post – they are all Scots names for bumblebee!
Laura Preston – Falls of Clyde Ranger, Scottish Wildlife Trust
Help support our vital work and join us today!