Monday, 8 November 2010

Winter bees

 A sunny weekend and the odd bumble bee is still active in my back garden, visiting the Hebe. I also noticed one checking out flowers in the front garden too.

I heard recently that scientists are investigating the growing phenomenon of bumblebees remaining active throughout the winter. They believe this may be due to the recent warmer winters, linked to climate change, also our passion for gardening. With the increasing popularity of exotic plant species and winter flowering shrubs, flowering plants are available in the winter from which bees can collect food. The species they have been monitoring is the buff-tailed bumble bee.

Another theory being explored is that the bees may be hybridising with foreign bees, which remain active in winter. It is thought that these may have escaped into the wild after being imported into Britain to help with the pollination of crops in poly tunnels.
The "winter bees" seem to be an entirely urban or suburban phenomenon. It appears that the queen bee only goes into a mini hibernation in October and then starts foraging again, rather than sleeping through the winter and waking up in March. However this could leave these bees
particularly vulnerable and a severe cold snap could be devastating to a species that is already struggling.

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