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  • Writer's pictureMid Wales Bees and Wasps

December 2020

Updated: Dec 8, 2020

As winter beckons, there have been no recent sightings of bees or wasps that I have been made aware of in the Radnorshire or Breconshire areas in the last few weeks.

I thought that it would be useful to start thinking about spring - it's only three weeks until the shortest day after all.

I intend to highlight some species over the next few months, that will often emerge from February onwards.

Initially there are emerging bumblebees and the solitary bee species are usually seen a little later - depending on the weather of course.

The bees that I will focus on are identifiable in the 'field' without too much difficulty. Looking through the data set held by the Biodiversity Information Service (BIS) there are very few records for some species that should be commonly found, but have not been recorded in this area of mid Wales - so let's change this!

Buff-tailed Bumblebee

To begin with - here's one of the first bumblebees that is seen in the new year, the Buff-tailed bumblebee, Bombus terrestris.

Buff-tailed bumblebee, Bombus terrestris

These are one of the first large queen bumblebees to be seen in the early spring, anytime from February onwards, usually. They are often seen flying low to the ground, possibly searching for a suitable site to begin a new nest for the year. Initially after emerging, she will be looking for nectar sources too, to increase her diminished body weight after being dormant over the winter months. This is why it is important to have plants, shrubs or trees that flower throughout the year.

This large, queen bumblebee is distinctive as she has two yellow bands and a buff coloured tail. The yellow is usually quite dark, not lemon coloured and the tail is buff brown, hence the name!

Buff-tailed bumblebee, Bombus terrestris

The queen will have mated the year previously and is therefore already fertile. She will establish a nest, often using an old mouse/vole nest in the ground. There, she will lay eggs and raise the grubs with a mix of pollen and nectar in the nest, until they emerge as adult female bees, often in April. The queen will lay eggs that produce male bumblebees later in the year.

Above is a distribution map of Buff-tailed bumblebee in the Radnorshire and Breconshire area, courtesy of the Biodiversity Information Service.

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