Tree bumblebees take up residence

Yesterday I noticed half a dozen bees ‘dancing’ around the guttering at my house. I had never seen such behaviour before so I watched for a while and then temporarily caught one of the bees in a net to see what it was. It turned out to be a tree bumblebee.

Tree bumblebee nest hole 1
The bees were flying around this guttering

Tree bumblebee nest hole 2A bee going up under the guttering and making a nest.

I found a very useful piece on the Bumblebee Conservation Trust’s website on tree bumblebees which explained what was going on – see here. The ‘dancing’ of the bees is known as nest surveillance and is a pre-mating display. The dancing bees are the drones, in due course a queen will emerge and mate with a male. This behaviour appears to be unique to tree bumblebees.

Tree bumblebee
Tree bumblebees first naturally arrived in the UK in 2001 and have spread widely since then. I photographed this individual last June on Lundy.

Tree bumblebee 2This photo shows the very distinctive marking of a tree bumblebee – the ginger thorax and the white tail. It will be interesting to see if the colony under the guttering develops and thrives.

If you are interested in bumblebees you might like to download (for free) a new publication on the Bumblebees of Cornwall and Scilly by Patrick Saunders. It is very informative and useful. The only thing to note is that it is a large file (38 mb). You can download it from here.

Screen Shot 2016-06-03 at 10.51.51

The cover illustration is by the Dartmoor naturalist and artist John Walters.

 

 

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