On Friday I told you about the bees that have taken residence in my ‘darlek’ compost bin that I store leaf mould in. After some research, I have found out that the bees are bumblebees rather than honey bees.
I am very pleased with this as bumblebees usually vacate their nests at the end of November, so they won’t be a nuisance to me when I need my leaf mould in the winter.
I have been reliably told they are a species called ‘Bombus hypnorum’ sometimes known as the ‘tree bumblebee’.
Bumblebees are important to our crops as they have very long seasons and therefore pollinate our early crops and winter crops. They are also important to our pea and bean crops as they have very long tongues which help to pollinate these crops.
They are also particularly good for our self-pollinating crops e.g. tomatoes. as the bumblebee places its upper body close to the anthers of a flower and vibrates, this shakes the pollen down onto the flowers below.
It has been proven that bumblebees can actually pollinate more flowers than honey bees as they are superfast pollinators.
The Life cycle of a bumblebee:
- A queen bumblebee will emerge in early spring and search for pollen and nectar in order to give her energy and replace body fats.
- The queen then finds a place to nest and she builds a small wax cup inside it, which she fills with nectar to sustain her whilst she incubates her eggs. She also builds a wax cell and puts a mound of pollen in it and then lays her eggs on top of it and incubates them by lying on the eggs and vibrating her flight muscles to generate heat. The queen continues to lay eggs.
- After four days the first eggs hatch and then after 14 days the larvae produce cocoons and they pupate. After another fourteen days they have transformed into bumblebees that bite their way out of the cocoons. The first bees are female worker bees which will help the queen to rear the rest of the brood. An average colony of bumble bees can have between 120-200 workers.
- At some point the queen stops producing worker bees and produces males and young queens. The males will leave the nest to mate and the queens will remain for a while longer to lay down fat reserves and then vacate the nest and fly off ready for winter hibernation.
Bumblebees are in decline due to modern farming methods (that have resulted in less hedgerows and wildflower landscapes) and building and road developments and the loss of woodlands. So it is important we help them as much as possible by growing ‘bee friendly’ flowers and in return they will pollinate our crops for us.
Bumblebees are no problem to have around as they will only sting you if they feel threatened and will vacate their nests at the end of the year, so they are best just left alone.
I feel very privileged and proud that the queen has chosen to set up home on my plot, as this shows me that the flowers I grow have attracted this beneficial insect by providing a constant supply of pollen and nectar.
Thank you for reading my blog today.
I will be back on Friday at my usual time.