Tuesday, 28 February 2012


Garden Bumblebee - Bombus hortorum
The anomalously warm sunny weather over the weekend gave me an unexpected opportunity to test my knowledge of Bumblebees. Having attended a course last summer, and having been swotting up over the winter, I was delighted to see the first queens of the year. The difference between book knowledge and being able to identify in the field is huge of course, so I was glad to have a reasonable camera to hand to be able to check my identifications. Fortunately the bees were intent on raiding the abundant crocuses to build up their strength ahead of establishing a nest and giving birth, so were not too fussed by me crouching over them with a magnifying glass and camera in hand, desperately counting the number of yellow stripes and gauging the length of their tongues.

White-tailed Bumblebee
- Bombus lucorum
Here are a couple of photos that I am reasonably confident of having identified correctly. The garden bumblebee Bombus hortorum is notable amongst common bumblebees for its long face and tongue so getting up close and personal allowed me to see this in action as it probed the crocus. And though you can't see its large white tail in this photo, this white-tailed bumblebee Bombus lucorum is covered in the pollen that is at the core at the heart of this transaction. What is great is that at this point in the year, the bumblebees that are out are almost certainly queens and are highly unlikely to be cuckoo species that appear later in the year, so that does cut down the options for the bumblebee novice. According to my field guide, not all of the 5 species (B. pratorum, B. terrestric, B. lucorum, B.lapidarius & B.hortorum) that I saw are usually on the wing so early in the year, so this is clearly not a normal chance to test my book knowledge, but was certainly a welcome one.

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