Saturday, September 20, 2008

Bumblebee Records Confirmed

Five Photographs all Bilberry Bumblebee Bombus Monticola (c) DB 2008

Report Submitted to Bumblebee Conservation Trust 03-09-2008

I came across several bees of the same species, with which I was unfamilliar, feeding on Ragwort at the edge of the moor. With reference to literature I later identified them as the above species. Luckily I had my camera and took several shots which I insert at the end of this mail.

As I have never seen this species before and it would appear to be uncommon I would be grateful if you would confirm that my identification is correct.

See Below for reply 20-09-2008

Giga Move of Bombus sp.... White Tailed Bumblebees Mating (c) DB 2008

White Tailed Bumblebee (c) DB 2008

Bombus lucorum report submitted to Bumblebee Conservation Trust 03-09-2008

The visit was primarily to record the visible migration of birds but by mid morning it was apparent that not only the birds were on the move but many, many bumblebees as well, certainly into the hundreds. All of the bees that we could identify were of the same species White-tailed bumblebee (Bombus lucorum). All were going fast, with the wind, in the same direction as described below. Initially I cannot find anything in literature about the movements / migrations? of these bees and I wonder if you have any information that you could let me have? I paste in below my report for the morning which is "bird" orientated but it does confirm the weather conditions and mentions the bees.

In addition we saw a pair of "grounded" White-tailed bumblebees mating with the female attached to a heather stem. The male rythmically had its legs in the air (as shown in the photograph) attached only by mating. Literature that I have says that mating of this species is very rarely observed so I insert a couple of photographs which may be of interest and confirm male and female of the species.

See Below for Reply 20-09-2008


Dear David,

Many thanks for the two records sent to us on September 3rd. Please accept my sincere apologies for the delay in our response. I have now added them to our database.

I'm very excited to see that you have recorded B. monticola! Since beginning our survey we have become aware that this species is perhaps not as threatened as we once thought, as it seems to thrive in areas where it is found. Instead, it seems to be extremely specialised, generally existing only in upland environments which means that it's range is always going to be restricted. Having said that, our Vane Farm bumblebee reserve has shown that this species can be attracted to forage at lower altitude habitat if suitable flowers are available. Records of this species are therefore particularly useful to allow us to identify exactly what type of habitat we need to preserve/provide in order to keep this species happy!

I am also very interested to hear that you appeared to witness some kind of migration of white-tailed bumblebees and also that you have observed a mating event. Little is known about the mating habits of bumblebees due to the paucity of observations and it is often been supposed that mating usually occurs out of site, perhaps at the tops of trees or somewhere similar.

I have never heard of a bumblebee migration, but we have found that males of certain species do turn up very far away from the nearest known population. For example, Steph O'Connor of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust found a male B. monticola in Hertfordshire which is way out of the known range for this species. This is perhaps an indication that males disperse far from their maternal nest and if they use wind to aid them on these flights, perhaps this explains your observation of several white-tails on the move on such a windy day. It is certainly a very interesting observation and we will keep an eye out for similar reports or occurrences.

Thanks again for these fantastic records! I will keep you posted on any future use of your photos or information.

Best wishes,

Gillian Lye.

(Bumblebee Conservation Trust)


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