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more on Bumblebees


By Arlene


~ As I have asked for help to vote for funding for a Bumblebee project in west Wales I thought I would give some info~ this is from the Bumblebee Conservation Trust of which I am a member.
Vote at ~…/Choose-the-most-worthy-eco-project-Entry-two—-Bumblebee-Conservation-Trust/

About bumblebees

Bumblebees are among the most endearing and familiar of our insects. The sight and sound of bees droning methodically from flower to flower is a quintessential part of a summer’s day. Sadly, changes to the farmed countryside have not been kind to our bumblebees. The number of species found in most of lowland Britain has halved since 1950. Within the last 70 years two bumblebee species have become nationally extinct and others have experienced major declines. Further extinctions may follow in the near future unless we act quickly. The reason that bumblebees have declined in the countryside is simple. Bees feed exclusively on pollen and nectar, and there are far fewer flowers in the countryside than there once were. Hedges have been grubbed up and marshes drained. In particular, unimproved grasslands which are rich in wildflowers (haymeadows and chalk downland) have been almost entirely swept away, replaced by silage and cereal fields.

Gardens now provide a valuable flower-rich refuge in an impoverished landscape, and as a result have become a stronghold for some bumblebee species. Depending on where you live, and what flowers you grow, you may see up to a dozen bumblebee species in your garden. Even a casual inspection of flowers in a garden or park will reveal several very differently coloured bumblebees. In fact six or seven species can be found in almost any reasonable-sized garden, and if the right sorts of plants are grown this total can be doubled.

The Bumblebee Lifecycle

Bumblebees, honeybees, wasps and ants are all social insects: they live in a colony with a queen and her daughters (the workers). Bumblebees have an annual lifecycle, with new nests being started each spring by queens. The queen bumblebees are very large, and from February onwards can be seen feeding on flowers such as willow catkins, bluebells and lungwort, or flying low over the ground searching for a nest site. Some species prefer to nest underground in abandoned burrows of rodents, while others nest just above the ground in dense grass or leaf-litter. The queen stocks her nest with pollen and nectar, and lays her first batch of eggs. She incubates them much as a bird would, sitting on the eggs while shivering her flight muscles to produce warmth. When the eggs hatch the legless grubs consume pollen and nectar, grow rapidly, and pupate after a few weeks. A few days later the first workers hatch from their pupae and begin helping their mother, expanding the nest and gathering food. By mid-summer nests of some species can contain several hundred workers. At this point the queen starts laying both male and female eggs. The females are fed extra food and become future queens. Both males and new queens leave the nest to mate, and the new queens burrow into the ground to wait until the following spring. The males, workers, and the old queen die off in the autumn, leaving the nest to decay.

Cuckoo Bumblebees

In the UK there are 6 species of cuckoo bumblebees. These were once themselves like other bumblebees, but they have switched to a parasitic existence. The females are especially powerful, and force their way into the nests of their bumblebee hosts. They kill or evict the queen and take over her workers as their own, using them to rear their own offspring. Cuckoo bumblebees do not produce workers of their own. Each cuckoo species tends to attack a particular species of bumblebee, so for example the southern cuckoo bumblebee targets buff-tailed bumblebee nests.
Fascinating facts about bumblebees

Want to know more? There are so many fascinating facts about bumblebees – far too much to fit on the website. Did you know that bumblebees have smelly feet? Are bumblebees left-handed or right-handed? Why do inbred bumblebees turn male? Why do workers turn on their mother and murder her? Where do bumblebees mate? How far can a bumblebee fly? Join the Trust today and learn more about these fascinating creatures…

~ a bit more on The BBCT~

Our aims

The Bumblebee Conservation Trust was founded in response to growing concerns about the ‘plight of the bumblebee’. In the last 70 years two species have become nationally extinct and several others have experienced dramatic declines. We aim to prevent further declines, and to raise awareness of the problems bumblebees face. We now have over 6,000 members ranging from enthusiastic and concerned amateurs right through to internationally renowned research scientists. All of us share a common affection for these affable insects and a desire to see them conserved for future generations. Join us today!

Our activities are co-ordinated from offices at the University of Stirling.

Our newsletter
Includes help with identifying bees, tips on attracting them to your garden, and sites to see some of the rarer species


  • Working with politicians, statutory agencies and other NGO’s championing the cause of bumblebees and developing sustainable agricultural policies
  • Promoting wildlife-friendly gardening throughout the UK
  • Encouraging farmers to enter into agri-envionrment schemes and allow wildlife back onto farms
  • Improving habitats and land management in sensitive areas to protect threatened species
  • Campaigning against developments that threaten important habitats
  • Highlighting the potentially harmful use of non-native bees for pollination and campaigning for better safeguards
  • Advising landowners and reserve wardens on conservation issues
  • Participating in and funding high-quality scientific research to underpin our conservation policies
  • Engaging with the UK Biodiversity Action Plan process, and driving forward with action to benefit biodiversity
  • Providing expert advice on all aspects of bumblebee ecology and conservation
  • Establishing both distribution and relative abundance surveys which reach out to a wide audience


  • Running events and training days so that people can learn more about bumblebees and how to help them
  • Our bumblebee education pack has been well received by over 100 Scottish schools – we hope to soon secure funding to produce educational materials for the whole of the UK
  • Our newsletter is full of interesting facts and information and reaches a growing membership over over 6,000
  • Giving talks and running events for interested groups and schools
  • Maintaining an interactive website which provide information on everything from bumblebee declines, and how you can help through to gardening and providing nest sites for bumblebees and much more – we hope you enjoy your visit
Please join today and help to make things change…

More blog posts by Arlene

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That's very interesting. I didn't realise there were so many different species of them. I saw a few last year. Actually I think I saw more Bumbles than ordinary bees. I think the councils should be made more aware of the bee situation. Then they might not 'tidy' the hedgerows so un-necessarily. I think I will write to ours.

29 Jan, 2010


That is so interesting Arlene. I didn't realise either there were so many species. Their lives are so intricate, and in some respects shocking to us.
All that matricide etc. As for smelly feet! that's just amazing.
When bees are busy collecting pollen, I always think of them as having panniers on their legs, and some are so full.
Last year we had rather a lot of bees flying into the conservatory, and caught them with our battery-powered humane insect remover and transferred them outside again. I wondered if something had made them lose their bearings or something.

29 Jan, 2010


What fascinating and interesting info,Arlene.I had never heard of Cuckoo Bumblebees before I read this,but can see where the name comes from,after reading about them here.I think most gardeners try to do their bit to help the bees now,as there has been so much publicity about their decline,recently.We certainly would be in a poor way without them,in fact,would we be here at all?.Thank you for telling us more about them,will definitely add my vote...

29 Jan, 2010


Just voted Arlene..hope they get the funding.I am going to contact my Facebook friends,and get them to vote too.This was the site I found it on,when I googled this the one you meant?Anyway,it accepted my vote,so should be ok.

29 Jan, 2010


~ thanks Bloomer~ I have put a link to paste straight into the browser now to make it easier~

29 Jan, 2010


I've just voted aswell.

29 Jan, 2010


Thanks Arlene for posting this very informative and useful Blog.

We will certainly take a look at the site. We all have a responsiblity to protect and nurture these wonderful creatures who play such an important part in the worlds wildlife chain. We have thought about keeping honey bees in our garden, but sadly its too small, so we do all we can to attract bees into our tiny garden.
All best wishes from us both.
G and A xx

29 Jan, 2010


~ I would too if I had the room Grenville~ one of the nicest places we stayed was located down a really narrow road with high hedges near Lostwithiel called Hidden Valley gardens~ in addition to the fact that the location was lovely they also maintain a nursery and sell plants as well as have a nice garden area where right at the back there are hives maintained by someone who comes in and looks after them ~ obviously a lot of the nurseries have areas where a lot of flowering plants are grown~ wouldn't it make sense for them to have hives in their private areas for pollination purposes and even honey production?
If we get could get a few large growers on board to look after the bees ~ maybe sheltered areas over the winter etc it might stop their decline.
There is a new firm relocating from Holland to Kent which was just setting up last year when we passed it which intends to grow tomatoes and salad crops in huge glasshouses on a year round basis and they will have their own bees for pollination from the word go~ until I know how it is working out for all concerned including the bees and the staff I will reserve judgement but at least they are acknowleding that we need to do something positive rather than just sit on our hands and let our bees and with them our fruit and veg production~ never mind our flowers!~ die out!

29 Jan, 2010


I tried lots and lots of times and could not access that website address...

29 Jan, 2010


Thanks Arlene. I have copied your blog and saved it for future reference.

29 Jan, 2010


very interesting blog arlene and i didnt realise so many differant kinds either, but i did know they are very much on the decline and we all need to do our bit, indrodusing wild flowers and plants to encourage them into our gardens, our local village co-op gave out wildflower seeds for free last spring with all shopping which was a good start, i had some growing and hope they come up again this year ;o))

29 Jan, 2010


~ hi TT~ just go to the bbct site and vote there!

29 Jan, 2010


I have voted Arlene. Glad you liked Hidden Valley gardens, I know Trish & Husband very well. Saw them just after the snow, as we came out of the front door on leaving, a gathering of wrens flew out from under the porch. Apparently about 20 or so had been roosting in an old house martins nest to keep warm.
On your stay with them did you go to Marsh Villas garden.

29 Jan, 2010


~ We have been a couple of times and loved where they are and our visit~ but they have now gone over to Self catering I believe which is not really our style unfortunately~didn't go to Marsh Villas ~maybe this year!

29 Jan, 2010


done my vote arlene :o)

29 Jan, 2010


~ thanks to everyone who is taking the time to vote!~

29 Jan, 2010


I've managed to vote now, Arlene :o)

29 Jan, 2010


~thanks TT ~ the last time I checked they were polling 59% of the votes which indicates how worried we all are about our bees......would be nice if the Government recognised that it should prioritise what it does with it's cash rather than allow taxpayer bailed out banks to loan companies the cash to take over British icons like Cadbury~ absolutely disgraceful that they should even think of doing so...

29 Jan, 2010


Arlene your Bee blogs are really interesting and full of facts of which I knew very little, thanks for taking the time to do them. I`ve voted and also passed your info around to family and friends.........

30 Jan, 2010


~thank you! that's great Lincslass~ every little helps!

30 Jan, 2010


One of my B & B rooms has a Bee theme, & I'm always being asked if I keep bees, unfortunately not, but I do revive them with a drop of honey when they get trapped in the conservatory.

30 Jan, 2010

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