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.



My news

After working for the National Trust for 18 years, 11 on Dartmoor and 7 at Wicken Fen I have decided to leave and work for myself. I have thoroughly enjoyed working for the Trust – it is a fabulous organisation and one I love dearly but now it is time for a change.

I am very proud of a number of the things I had been involved with over the years, I was the architect of the Wicken Fen Vision, I led the team that raised the money and sorted out the governance for the Castle Drogo restoration project and I led the team that put the Fingle Woods partnership with the Woodland Trust together.

Yesterday many of my colleagues and friends both within the NT and from outside came to Parke for my leaving do. Thank you all for coming. I also received a number of leaving presents.

JW Oil beetles
This is a painting by the Dartmoor artist and naturalist John Walters of oil beetles – I absolutely love it

DNPA photoKevin Bishop, the Chief Executive of the DNPA very kindly presented me with this photograph of Pew Tor

MO bookAnd Matthew Oates sent me a signed copy of his book – In pursuit of butterflies

Thank you also to my colleagues Toby, Mick, Philip and James who said a few words summing up my time with the Trust – much appreciated. Thank you also to Philip Broadbent Yale – my old line manager from Wicken who travelled a long way to come and say goodbye.

I will be staying in Devon, I will continue to write this blog, I will become an NT volunteer (I will remain as the NT Team Manager for our 10 Tors team) and I will continue to work for Devon and Dartmoor’s wildlife and wild places.

I officially leave at the end of the month and after that I will set up a little consultancy which I hope will also help with conserving and protecting our special places and species for people and prosperity.



John Walters and the rufous grasshopper on the One Show

John Walters is a very good Dartmoor and Devon naturalist as well as being a great artist. He is also a friend of mine. He was recently on the One Shop talking about the mating behaviour of the rufous grasshopper. Here is the clip from the programme. Amazing how confiding the grasshoppers were!

Rufous grasshopper 4
Here are a couple of photos I took at the same location last year – note the swollen tip to the antennae

Rufous grasshopper 3
And the characteristic markings on the top of the pronotum

RG map
Here is the national distribution of the species (via the National Biodiversity Network) – quite a rare animal!