Lismore's Bumblebees

November 2013

As I write this in the first week of November, my garden is strangely quiet. A week ago I could still hear buzzing sounds around the few remaining fuschia flowers on my hedges and among the clumps of garden geraniums which bloom throughout the year. But now the bumblebees have really gone. The old queens, female workers and males have died, as is normal, but the new queens, already mated, have found a dry, cosy spot to hibernate until the spring. Come late March or early April, they'll emerge to start producing the next generation of bumblebees.

I love bumblebees, always have, but until about five years ago I hadn't done anything to further my knowledge and interest. Then the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, BBCT, based in Stirling University, was formed and has gone from strength to strength. I joined, received lots of useful information from them, volunteered to do a Beewalk and, four years later, it's a monthly highlight in my life from April to October. That's why you may have seen me, notebook and pencil in hand, walking along the road or across the fields on my fixed monthly walk.

Lismore has a healthy population of bumblebees. Our fine gardens and lush roadside verges supply an abundance of the necessary nectar and pollen they require to rear the next generation. Nesting sites, too, are easily found, sometimes under a shed or in nooks and crannies in rough grass or in the ground.

On my monthly Beewalk I identify each bumblebee I find from the six main types commonly found on the island, recording whether they are a queen, a worker or a male. As I do the more advanced grade of Beewalk, I also record the plant they are feeding on.

Though there may be more than six, the most commonly seen are:

Favourite flowers for bumblebees in our gardens are lavender, catmint, fuschia, foxglove and honeysuckle. On the roadside verges here, all the nectar and pollen they need is supplied by willow catkins, brambles, devil's bit scabious, cuckoo flower, ragged robin, knapweed, woundwort and orchids.

B. McD
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