Tree Bee

21 Aug

This summer there has been an increase in calls about bumblebees which are nesting higher than usual, often in bird boxes, roof spaces, and rot holes in trees. Upon inspection many of these have turned out to Bombus Hypnorum, or, the Tree Bee.
This species was first sighted in Britain in 2001 on a bramble flower in Hampshire so is a relative newcomer to our shores. Since 2007 however there has been a massive population expansion and they have been sighted as far north as Northumberland and as far west as South Wales.
The Tree Bee’s distinctive colour pattern makes it easily recognisable as it has a brown thorax, white tail, and black abdomen, as opposed to the more common native species which tend to feature a yellow / black patterning.
The species is predominantly an early season one with the queen’s emerging from hibernation in February or early March although they are most obvious in late May and June when the colonies are busy producing males. They also go on to have a partial second brood which is active during the late summer.
Although they often nest in trees and bird boxes they are found in a wide variety of habitats from roadside verges and grasslands, to parks and gardens. They are regularly found (like the first pioneer here!) on fruit trees, and fruit bearing plants where they are effective pollinators and help to improve crop yield.
Given their versatility and adaptability the Tree Bee has the potential to colonise the whole of Great Britain and is very unlikely to impact negatively on other species.

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