The Bumble Bee Conservation Trust

The Bumble Bee Conservation Trust

Bummble bees are cute!

As anglers we are much closer to our natural environment than most. We will witness natural occurrences and view rare sights that many will not see in their lifetime. It was whist on a recent trip that I spent the whole summers day in the company of Bumble Bees as they visited a large lavender plant which was close to the swim I was fishing. When I returned home I wanted to find out more so done some internet browsing, this was when I found the Bumble Bee Conservation Trust. They do a sterling job of educating the general public, creating a place where people with the same interest to communicate and lastly protect the British Bumble Bee, I am very happy to support them.

About the trust

The Bumblebee Conservation Trust was established because of serious concerns about the 'plight of the bumblebee'. In the last 80 years the UK bumblebee populations have crashed. Two species have become nationally extinct and several others have declined dramatically. Bumblebees are familiar and much-loved insects that pollinate our crops and wild flowers. The Bumble Bee Conservation Trust have a vision for a different future where communities and the countryside are rich in bumblebees and colourful flowers, supporting a diversity of wildlife and habitats for everyone to enjoy. A growing number of committed supporters are helping our small team of staff make a big difference. The Trust has over 7,000 members with this number growing fast.

The Trusts 3 main objectives are:

More about Bumble Bees

Bummble bees are cute!

Bumblebees are social insects, they form colonies with a single queen bee, these colonies are smaller than those of the Honey Bee. Bumble Bee hives often consist of fewer than 50 individuals in a nest. Female bumblebees can sting repeatedly but generally ignore humans and other animals. Bumblebees have round bodies covered in soft hair called pile, making them appear and feel fluffy to the touch. They have warning coloration flowing in bands around their rotund bodies. This coloration acts as a warning to birds and other potential threats. Colours include; black, yellow, orange/red, and white.

They are best distinguished from similarly large, fuzzy bees by the form of the female hind leg, which is modified to form a pollen basket and has a bare shiny concave surface, surrounded by a fringe of hairs used to transport pollen (in similar bees, the hind leg is completely hairy, and pollen grains are wedged into the hairs for transport). Like their relatives the honey bees, bumblebees feed on nectar, using their long hairy tongues (proboscis) to lap up the liquid. The proboscis is folded under the head for flight. Bumblebees gather pollen to feed their young. A single female Bumble Bee will begin construction of a new nest. The nest may be found within tunnels in the ground made by other animals, or in tussock grass as opposed to create a nest in Bumblebees form colonies, which are usually much less extensive than those of honey bees.

The small number of Bumble Bees in a nest (when compared to the Honey Bee) is due largely to:

Bummble bees are friendly!

The last generation of bees before winter will contain a number of females. These females will over winter (hibernate) in a secure place and will begin the life cycle once again the next spring/summer. The new queen bee's will emerge with the first signs of spring and begin gathering pollen and nectar from flowers and search for a suitable nest site. Favorite nest sites are underground holes, tussock grass or directly on the ground. Once the queen finds a site, she prepares wax pots to store food and wax cells in which to lay her eggs. These eggs then hatch into larvae these larvae then cause the wax cells to expand into a clump of brood cells. In order to develop, the larvae must be fed on both nectar for carbohydrates and pollen for protein. Bumblebees feed nectar to the larvae by chewing a small hole in the brood cell into which they regurgitate nectar.

Larvae are fed pollen in one of two ways, depending on the bumblebee species. With proper care, the larvae progress through four stages of development becoming successively larger with each. At the end of the fourth stage, the larvae spin silk cocoons under the wax covering the brood cells, changing them into pupa cells. The entire process from egg to adult bee can take as long as five weeks, depending on environmental conditions. After the emergence of the first or second group of workers, workers take over the task of foraging and the queen spends most of her time laying eggs and caring for larvae. The colony grows progressively larger and eventually begins to produce males and new queens. The point at which this occurs varies among species and is heavily dependent on resource availability and environmental factors, weather etc..

Bumblebees have many predators including:

Bummble bees adore lavender

Mating is rarely observed in the wild. It is known that the queens detect the males by flying around at a particular height until they detect the fragrance of males. Then mating takes place. The bees couple with the male hanging on to the queens back. Usually they mate on the ground or foliage, but there have been sightings of large queens flying with a male attached to her. The time taken for mating's also varies widely from 10 to 80 minutes. However the time taken from the transfer of sperm from the male to the queen is only 2 minutes.

The Bumble Bee Sting

Queen and worker bumblebees can sting. Unlike a honey bees stinger, a bumblebee's stinger lacks barbs, so it can sting repeatedly without injuring itself. Bumblebee species are not normally aggressive, but will sting in defense of their nest, or if harmed. Female cuckoo bumblebees will aggressively attack host colony members, and sting the host queen, but will ignore other animals (e.g. humans) unless disturbed.

Endangered status

Bumblebee species are declining in the UK. Pesticides present a high risk for bees. In Britain, until relatively recently, 19 species of native true bumblebees were recognised along with six species of cuckoo bumblebees. Of these, three have been extirpated, eight are in decline and another two species considered vulnerable to extinction. A decline in bumblebee numbers could cause large-scale changes to the countryside, resulting from inadequate pollination of certain plants. The world's first bumblebee sanctuary was established at Vane Farm in the Loch Leven National Nature Reserve in Scotland in 2008.

The Buzz

My lavender bushes

One common, yet incorrect belief is that the low tone buzzing sound is caused by the beating of their wings. The sound is actually caused by the Bumblebee vibrating its flight muscles. This vibration helps the bee to warm up. Bumblebees must warm up their bodies considerably to get airborne. If you are lucky enough to find a nest, its best to just leave it alone. Bumblebees can be aggressive if their nest is threatened.

Ways to support..

Become a Member

By becoming a member of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust you will be supporting their vital work.  Members receive a welcome pack and our Buzzword newsletter three times per year, providing fascinating facts about bumblebees and updates on our projects. As a small charity, we rely on your donations and generosity to carry on with our vital conservation and outreach work. You may wish to give us a one-off donation, sign up to give on a monthly basis or even take out an advert in our Buzzword members' magazine.

Bumble Bee Conservation Trust

Credits - jocelyner, allsoulsnight, missmayo, jrockcupcake, JosCos, Hoodwinkstar,