T H E B U M B L E B E E C O N S E R V A T I O N T R U S T T A K E O V E R !
Big Wild Thought help fund the Bumblebee Conservation Trust and their bee-rilliant work by donating 10% of the purchase price of bee-themed products and, to help raise awareness, we are taking over their blog to tell you about these amazing, fuzzy little winged warriors.
THE BUMBLEBEE LIFECYCLE
Bumblebees are social creatures and live in nests ruled by a queen, helped by smaller female workers. The queen emerges from hibernation in early Spring to find a nest site and once she’s collected stocks of nectar, (stored in tiny wax pots she’s made) and pollen she lays her first brood of eggs. It takes 4 – 5 weeks for an egg to develop into an adult, about half the time as a larva feeding, and the rest as a pupa in a cocoon. The first offspring are workers, who help in the nest or forage to replenish the food stores. As the season progresses, new queens and males are produced so that the colony can reproduce. Males are easy to spot, lounging on flowers, drinking nectar, waiting for the new queens to emerge so that they can get some action. Only the new, mated queens will survive until the following spring, by hibernating from October to next Spring, surviving temperatures down to minus 19°C.
ARE BUMBLEBEES IMPORTANT?
Yes, they are! Gardeners have long known about the importance of bumblebees for pollination. These wild bees are iconic, charismatic and captivating insects and provide a vital “free-bee” role in pollinating much of the food on our plates, garden and wildflowers as well as fruits and seeds for birds and small mammals. They act as a useful and powerful indicator of the health of our environment but their numbers and distribution are declining.
There are 24 species of bumblebee in the UK, representing approximately 10% of the world’s bumblebee species. In the last 100 years, 3 species have become extinct and 8 of our remaining species are in serious decline, including the Shrill carder bee which is now restricted to just a few sites in England and Wales, and the beautiful Great Yellow bumblebee which was once common but is now only found in the far north of Scotland.
Shrill carder bee (Bombus sylvarum)
Great Yellow bumblebee (Bombus Distinguendus)
These declines are mainly due to the loss of 97% of lowland wildflower meadows to intensive agriculture and urban development since the 1930’s. All bumblebees need are flowers to provide nectar for energy and pollen for protein.
BUMBLEBEE CONSERVATION TRURST
The Bumblebee Conservation Trust was established in 2006 because of the serious concerns about the ‘plight of the bumblebee.’ We run science, conservation and awareness raising projects, encouraging our supporters to help increase the number and distribution of our valuable bumblebees and are now involved in twelve regionally focused projects across the UK. Each project aims to inspire and educate local people to understand about the importance of bumblebees and give them the knowledge, skills and confidence to make a difference in their local community for pollinators.
WE CAN 'BEE THE CHANGE'
Here are a few micro-actions that anyone can do to help us save the sound of summer:
🐝 A key activity many of supporters carry out is to make their garden ‘Bee kind’, guided by our free online directory of 700 bee-friendly plants. You can find ‘Bee kind’ on our Gardening for bumblebees webpage.
🐝 Don’t cut the grass more than a couple of times during the growing season and wait for lawn wildflower bumblebee favourites like birdsfoot trefoil, clover and dandelions to finish flowering.
🐝 Let an area of garden grow wild, with wildflower annuals and perennials.
🐝 Don’t disturb hibernation spots (usually North-facing, dry banks soil and compost heaps) from October to March.
🐝 Think carefully about using pesticides.
🐝 Learn to recognise the different species on our website, or download our free ‘What’s that bumblebee?’ app about our 8 most common species (on Apple and android phones and tablets). You can even have a virtual bumblebee into your room with the 3D augmented reality feature.
🐝 Become a member of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust and get regular updates on our work plus much more.
🐝 Bumblebees need more people to tell us which species and how many they see during bumblebee season, so that we can continue to focus our projects to help those species struggling to survive. BeeWalk (www.beewalk.org.uk) is a national monitoring scheme which collects bumblebee data from across the UK and we gather this data by recruiting and training volunteer “BeeWalkers”.