Friday 12 July 2013

Tree Bumblebees at NWT Thorpe Marshes

Chris Durdin, NWT Thorpe Marshes
Tree bumblebee
We’re always hearing about the plight of bees. That tends to affect the farmed countryside more than nature reserves and our gardens, but it’s reminded me that I struggle to identify bumblebees – leaving an obvious gap in recording the wildlife at NWT Thorpe Marshes.

A small step towards plugging that gap came when an email from a regular reserve visitor alerted me to tree bumblebees Bombus hypnorum. The easiest place to see them is feeding on bramble flowers by the railway bridge where you enter the nature reserve, though my photo is on a valerian, a proper marsh flower.

For a bee beginner like me, tree bumblebees are great: easy to identify, no real confusion species and with the added excitement of being a new colonist. They were first recorded in the UK in 2001 and in Norfolk in 2007.

As you can see in the picture, tree bumblebees are ginger with a dark abdomen and a white tail. Males are bigger than workers and queens bigger still, but they all have the same pattern. But I can’t pretend this is special to Thorpe Marshes: this colonial bee species is probably in your garden, too. I came home from the marshes and promptly found them in mine!

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