Tuesday, 8 April 2014

All A Bit of A Bumble

In the last few weeks I have noticed a lot of bumblebees buzzing around.  I know very little about bumblebees and normally feel quite envious of people when they say 'ooh look a buff-tail just flew past' pointing to a fast fluffy blob with wings fly off over a hedge.
This week I decided to change that and start learning about these fascinating insects. Yesterday I bought an FSC Guide on Common Bee species and today I made the most of the weather and headed out with my camera in tow.

I only needed to go five minutes down the road and I'd seen four different species already! The first I managed to photograph was this: a red-tailed bumblebee (or at least I think it is... I later found out there are cryptic bees but I'll tell you about them another day when I understand them a bit better!).

Red-tailed bumblebee
Bumblebees it turns out are much like butterflies, when it is sunny and warm they do not stay still for long and are pretty tricky to photograph! Luckily I managed to find a flowering willow that seemed to attract a wide variety of nectaring insects including bees, butterflies, and flies.

Tree Bumblebee & Peacock Butterfly on Willow
On the willow there was a Tree bumblebee and another species of bee I was not sure about as none of the FSC pictures matched up perfectly.  After a quick Google search I ended up on the Bumblebee Conservation Trust website and found myself signing up to 'BeeWatch'.  The Trusts website has a handy guide to bees and a little more information about each of them than the FSC guide can fit in.  
After looking through all of the bee species I was still not confident to ID my bee so I sent a photo off to the experts at BeeWatch.  

Here is my photo of the unidentifiable bee - I believe it may be a Common carder bee but I am waiting for confirmation... 

Possible Common carder bee
Having never heard of BeeWatch before I was really impressed with the website and their ideas! I particularly liked that:
  • people are encouraged to post pictures of the bees they have found as a form of recording
  • if you post a picture you get a personal reply back from an expert that tells you not only the species of your bee but also what features tell you it is that species
  • you can practice your bee identification skills by looking at other peoples photos and using a simple filter system to help you guess what species the bee is.

After a little wander around the woods and seeing many more bumblebees that were not so cooperative I returned home just in time to see what I believe to be a Garden bumblebee flying out of my driveway.

I've enjoyed my first day bumblebeeing. I was surprised and quite pleased to learn that there actually aren't that many species of bumblebee to learn - there are only 250 species in the World! And only 24 of those live in the UK :)

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