April 25th 2014

On this very misty, rainy day I’ll return to Bumblebees, photographed recently in the garden. The Common Carder Bee is one of the most common Bumblebees and a frequent visitor to gardens. It is the only Bumblebee in the UK with a wholly ginger thorax, which should mean I’ve identified these correctly! Its abdomen varies in marking and colour. The one on the wood began warming up in the sun, and then groomed

Queen Bumblebee holding on tight by it's claws while it grooms its body

Queen Bumblebee holding on tight by it’s claws while it grooms its body

itself by holding on with it’s front claws and combing its whole body over and over again with it’s other legs- great to watch. The Carder Bumblebees (so-named because they ‘card’ their nest materials into place with their legs)  are fascinating. All the bees die except last summer’s final females which, after being fertilised, hibernate and emerge in spring to search for nest-sites. They choose cavities in the ground, like mouse-holes or hollows in the grass, or above ground like bird nests, holes in sheds etc. The Queen gathers together moss and grass and build a small hollow sphere, bound together with wax. She then forms a 5mm bowl of brown wax in the nest, fills this with pollen, and deposits 5 – 15 eggs inside. She creates another 20mm cup above it and fills this with nectar, as a bad weather food source. The larvae hatch after a few days and eat the pollen,  maturing in a few days. The first to emerge are workers, to tend following batches of larvae, to a maximum size per nest of 200 bees. Males and females emerge later and mate. Only the last, fertilised females survive to hibernate as Queens and emerge in early spring. Carder Bumblebees have long enough tongues to feed on a wide range of  garden plants, including thyme, sage, antirrhinum and lavender. Conditions: Wet and cool. Temperature: Max 11 – Min 8 c

Carder Bumblebee- this one, feeding on Pulmonaria, has a stripy abdomen

Carder Bumblebee- this one, feeding on Pulmonaria, has a stripy abdomen

Carder Bumblebee, showing its long tongue, capable of feeding on tubular flowers such as sage and lavender.

Carder Bumblebee, showing its long tongue, capable of feeding on tubular flowers such as sage and lavender.

 

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