Sunday, 7 April 2013

At last!

Finally, a proper spring day. After the persistent north-easterly of recent weeks has kept us shivering, huddled indoors and thinking winter would last forever, today suddenly the wind dropped and the sun shone. Maybe in any other April we would still have called it cold but relative to what we have had, today felt like a perfect mild spring day.

And it's not just us that have hidden indoors, there has been a marked absence of my favourite insects, the bumblebees. Last year, I had seen all 6 of the common British Bumblebee species in Norfolk by the end of February (5 of them in our garden on a single day) whereas this year, apart from a single Bombus terrestris in London in February I have not seen any.

Yesterday I undertook my monthly Beewalk on behalf of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust and was delighted to see a couple of queens of different species (Bombus pratorum and Bombus terrestris) foraging for suitable nest sites by flying close to the ground and exploring holes and other possible nesting opportunities. The good thing for them is that the cold weather that has kept them from doing this earlier in the year has also delayed the flowering of their normal early sources of pollen and nectar that they will need to get the strength to establish their new nests. Daffodils, crocuses and red dead nettles are now primed for pollinators to exploit their offerings...and of course in return facilitate their own propagation.

Towards the end of the transect I also came across a queen and a couple of workers of another species Bombus Pascuorum  (Common Carder Bee) which I had thought was one of the later awakening species. But given that she had already managed to establish a nest and breed workers, this queen  had clearly been active for at least a couple of weeks.

So that is all good news - the cycles of life start again, although I must admit I was getting slightly worried that last year's poor summer and therefore foraging opportunities combined with this never-ending winter meant that the bees were never coming back!

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