Monday, 17 February 2014

Bumblebee queen acrobatics

Now is the time bumblebee queens start to emerge from their hibernation places and the first you will see are often Buff-tailed (Bombus terrestris) and White-tailed bumblebees (Bombus lucorum). The queens are hungry after their long hibernation and in urgent need of food in form of nectar from early spring flowers such as Snowdrops (Galanthus spp.), Lesser celandine (Ficaria verna) and Crocuses (Crocus spp.).
I have planted quite a lot of crocuses on my allotment and every year in February and March I can watch hungry bumblebee queens visiting the flowers. It is quite interesting to see what acrobatics the big queens perform to reach the nectar which is hidden right at the bottom of the crocus flowers. But it must be worth it as the queens spend up to several minutes in a crocus flower, often head first, and in the process get loaded with loads of crocus pollen.
Below are some pictures of a White-tailed bumblebee queen visiting a patch of crocus flowers on my allotment. The mites you can see in the pictures, clinging to the queen, are normally quite harmless. They live in bumblebee nests and eat wax, pollen and debris. The mites in the picture have hibernated with the bumblebee queen and are now hitching a ride so they can settle down in the new nest the queen will start building soon.

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