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Bumble Bee Nest in my Shed
Finding the Bumble Bees Nest
I was very excited to hear buzzing when I disturbed a small pile of hay in my garden shed. I had a bees nest. I couldn't wait to discover exactly who was living there.
I really enjoy wildlife and gardening,so have been trying to entice bees by planting flowers which will attract them and give nectar throughout the year. The nest seemed to be proof that my efforts had paid off. I was especially pleased because I know that honey bees and bumble bees have suffered a crash in numbers, so it's extra important to welcome them into your garden. With my nest I felt like I was contributing a little bit to bee conservation. I sat down in the doorway of my shed to see what bee species would appear.
Bumble Bee Flying
White Tailed Bumble Bee
There are 6 types of bumble bee that tend to make use of gardens in the UK: The garden bumble bee, buff tailed bumble bee, white tailed bumble bee, early bumble bee, red tailed bumble bee and common carder bee. After looking at bee ID pictures I decided mine are white tailed bumble bees. They proved very entertaining to watch as I hope the video shows.
A Bee with Pollen
Watching Bumblebees in my Shed
The white tailed bumble bees have proved to be very entertaining. They come in and out of the shed through a pop hole which leads into my rabbit run. They don't bother the rabbit at all and only land on me if I am right in their way. When I first found them their nest was near the web of a labyrinth spider. This led to the drama captured in the video. The spider has since moved out which has made life easier for the bumble bees.
Enjoying my bees so much meant I started to notice every time bees came up in poetry too. It's quite surprising how many bee related poems there are.
The Bumble Bee Versus the Spider
Bumble Bee Life Cycle
In spring the bumble bee queen, who has been hibernating alone underground, emerges. She is hungry and in need of energy. Nectarful Spring flowers are essential to give her enough energy to find a nest site, such as my garden shed or a nice grassy tussock. Then, using pollen and wax she makes a mound into which she can lay eggs. Once the eggs hatch out into larvae she must feed the larvae by herself, so really has her work cut out. However when the larvae become bees, she has her first (female) workers and the nest can start to grow.
The queen’s job is now to lay eggs and keep the workers in order, whilst they guard the nest and bring back pollen and nectar. Later in the season some eggs will hatch into males and new queens. These will leave the nest to find a mate, the males die and the queens feed as much as possible to build fat reserves for hibernation. Their fertilised eggs won’t be laid until they emerge next year
Bumble Bee Life Cycle Diagram
Useful Extra Reading
Why are Bumble Bees Dying?
Unlike honey bees they haven’t been decimated by viruses or mite infestations. However bumble bees need nectar and there are far fewer wild flowers now due to modern agricultural methods such as herbicides. Bumble bees may also be affected by mobile phone masts which can disrupt their ability to navigate effectively. However loss of wildflower meadows is likely to be the prime cause of their decline. According to ‘The Bumble Bee Conservation Trust’, Britain has lost 97% of its flower rich grassland in the past 80 years. Loss of bumble bees is a worry, because as well as being lovely to have around they help pollinate some of our favourite food crops like strawberries peas and apples
Wild Flower Meadow
Flower Rich Grassland
Bees Don't Like
- 'double' flowered varieties of plants such as Kerria, which are usually sterile so have no nectar or pollen
- bedding plants such as French marigolds, begonia and petunias
How can I Help Bumble Bees?
Use your garden to grow nectar rich flowers for bumble bees from early spring to late summer. Different bee species prefer different flowers, so grow a wide range if you can, especially of perennial plants or wild flowers. Some plants which bees love are foxgloves, clover, single flowered roses, heather, lungwort, runner beans and lavender.
Don't be too tidy in your garden, areas of long grass, log piles and undergrowth can be good bee nest sites. The jury's still out as to whether the commercially available bumble bee nests are effective at attracting bumble bees.
Help the Bumble Bee Conservation Trust by surveying bee populations and supporting their work.