Wednesday, 26 June 2013

The Tree Bumblebee - now in a garden near you!

Having recently spent a week on Bardsey at the Bird & Field Observatory, I was going to blog about the pair of Shelducks with their brood of ducklings, and the efforts of the adults to protect their young from the Grey Seals always on the look-out for a snack.

Photo by Julian Thompson
However, today I have even more exciting topics to enthuse about - reading about a new bumblebee, then seeing it in the garden, then finding its nest!!

The bumblebee is the Tree Bumblebee, which Mark Cocker wrote about in his Country Diary in the Guardian on Monday (not read by me until today).  He tells us that it was first recorded in the UK near Southampton in 2001, and has now spread very widely. Also that it is quite distinctive, with a foxy-brown thorax (upper part of body), dark (blackish) abdomen, finished off with a white tip to the abdomen.  After reading this, I wandered off into the garden sorting through the numerous bumblebees, and soon spotted several Tree Bumblebees! A phone-call to COFNOD, our local Records Centre, confirmed that the species is now established in North Wales.

A little more investigation showed that the bees had built a nest in a birdbox on the front of the house. At least five bees were on duty at the entrance, some fanning their wings presumably to cool the nest. Please spare a thought for the poor birds the box is designed for – in Natur Cymru #46 Roy Bomford (page 37) told us about Dormice taking over Pied Flycatcher nests, and now our garden tits (and House Sparrows) have to face their nests being taken over by bumblebees! Still, it’s all biodiversity, and this incomer may be more benign than some others (Harlequin Ladybird, Ruddy Duck, Japanese Knotweed...). It will of course compete for food with other species of bumblebee - does this matter?

Those of you who have already spotted this insect in your garden, please tell us about it, and of course pass details to your LRC.

Photo supplied by Julian Thompson


  1. I have a Tree Bumblebee nest in the compost bin in the back garden of my house in Colwyn Bay. It was very exciting when I realised what it was that I had witnessed flying in and out of the bin, which happens to be located right next to an area of the garden where I've planted bee-friendly plants.

  2. I have had a Tree Bumblebee nest in a bird-box in my garden in Deganwy for the last few months. Last year they nested in the eaves above my porch.
    There are always quite a number of bees patrolling outside the nest.
    I have been told that these are males waiting for a queen to emerge in the hope of a chance to mate.