In Victorian Warwickshire, fifteen species of bumblebee were classified as common,
this number dwindled right down to about six! Two species that are a little more
scarce are present here like the Nationally Scarce Large Garden Bumblebee and the
not so common Red-shanked Carder Bumblebee bringing the number up to eight and the
Tree Bumblebee (a new species to the UK) makes a total of nine!
A simplified life cycle of a bumblebee starts when the female or queen is fertilized
by the male in the late summer, she hibernates through the winter. The queen emerges
in the Spring and feeds up to replenish her body reserves for egg laying. A suitable
nest site is found and the queen begins to collect pollen from which she builds a
pollen plate or small disc. When this is complete she then builds a few cells in
which to lay her first eggs. When these hatch, they feed on the pollen and the queen
tends to them until fully developed. They then pupate in the cells and hatch as the
first worker bumblebees or infertile females. The queens only job from now on is
to feed and lay eggs. Workers tend these, also collecting pollen and nectar for the
nest. Toward the end of the season, the queen produces eggs that will develop into
fertile females and males. When these eventually hatch as adults, they fly off, mate,
the male dies and the female feeds up before hibernating for the winter. The nest
cycle is over and the workers also die off.
LIST OF BUMBLEBEE SPECIES FOUND IN THE STOUR AREA
Large garden bumblebee
Common carder bumblebee
Small meadow bumblebee
Red-shanked carder bumblebee
See all nine species in the slide show!
Many of the pictures used in the below slide show, were taken in a survey of queen
bumblebees. Note the 5mm scale!