It’s that time of year when we see lots of queen bumblebees zigzagging around the place looking for a home to build a nest. Nest sites can be roughly broken down into three categories – underground, on the ground and above ground. For example the tree bumblebee likes to nest in holes in trees and will often use old birds’ nests. Carder bees will nest in the grass and card (or comb) the grass with their wee legs to create the perfect nest site. Other bumblebees like the white-tailed bumblebee like to use old mouse nests in which to create a nest.
So how do you encourage bumblebees to nest in your garden? The easiest option is to leave a quiet corner of the garden to grow over. Dense vegetation creates a great, safe hiding place as well as providing natural nesting material. It is however also possible to provide artificial nesting sites like bird boxes or submerged plant pots. Adding nesting material to these is often key as the queens need to find somewhere that has plenty of insulation.
The queens will often find these nests by scent so it can be a really great idea to use rodent pet bedding (as long as it is from natural materials such as hay). This will provide a scent which can help attract queen bees who are searching for a home. The final thing to remember is to provide lots of flowers for the prospective queen and her colony to feed from. It is important to make sure you have flowers in your garden from March through until the end of autumn.
We’ve been seeing lots of bees on the reserve in the past few weeks. At this time of year they are particularly attracted to willow blossom and you can often find these trees covered in bumblebees on sunny afternoons.
Laura Preston, Falls of Clyde Ranger
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