A couple of weeks ago I was looking at bees in the reserve and one caught my eye. I instantly knew it was a species I was unfamiliar was and after a little research and help it was identified as a Tree Bumblebee. I was pleased as it was a new species to me and helped to add more information in my quest to learn about bee identification and their habits and requirements. They are very handsome bees with a unique colour formation amongst the UKs Bumblebees. They have a very gingery fury thorax and its very eye-catching and was the feature that drew my attention to it originally. So far, my observations have all been made of individuals feeding on flowers in the reserve and I have seen them seen them feeding on 7 different flowers so far.
I did some reading up after seeing them on my reserve and discovered a lot of interesting facts about this species.
This attractive Bumblebee has only been recorded in the UK from 2001 when there were first sightings were at a Wiltshire site. Since its arrival it has done something that most other UK bee species are not doing, increasing and spreading rapidly, and is already in southern Scotland and Ireland. It doesn’t seem to be slowing down much in spreading and will probably be seen throughout the UK within a couple of years. I had least 3 feeding the other day out the back on the reserve.
The effects of this species have yet to be studied properly but a positive effect can be seen already with the fact that they will pollinate other plants and flowers. With the drop-in numbers of other bee species, additional plant pollinators are to be welcomed.
Their name comes from their original choice of nest site but now it seems that nest sites can include; bird nest boxes, loft space in houses and even specially built bee nest boxes. They have also been known to use holes in the ground like many of the other bumblebees and this shows that they are an adaptable and opportunistic species. In other parts of their range populations can reach the arctic circle. From the looks of things, and with the continued warming of the climate, it looks like Tree Bumblebees will keep spreading. I’m quite glad as I think they are an attractive and helpful specie to have around in the UK. We shall see what long term affect their presence will have on our countryside.
Keep your eyes open in your gardens and you may well have some around you.