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Talkback: Gardening for bumblebees

We have bumblebees on our winter-flowering cherry tree on mild days in winter. I counted 7 yesterday, but I couldn't get a close look at them. Do you know what species they might be?


  • Milo - they're most likely to be buff-tailed bees, Bombus terrestris. No-one knows exactly why this species has started establishing winter colonies, but one theory is that some foreign strains that were imported from Europe to pollinate tomato crops escaped from their glass houses and cross-bred with our native strain. The foreign strain is less genetically predisposed to hibernating, so we suddenly have winter colonies of buff-tailed bumblebees.

  • In the past 2 years, commercial beekeepers have seen dramatic drops in our honeybee populations, with some beekeepers in the USA seeing as much as a 90% reduction in their hives. The phenomenon is called “Colony Collapse Disorder,” and its cause is poorly understood. In France, similar mysterious die-offs in honeybee populations were attributed to a family of new neurotoxin pesticides called neonicotinids, with the main example of this group of chemicals being imidacloprid (sold as Gaucho and other brands by Bayer). Research at the University of Florida indicates that levels of this chemical declared “safe” for adult bees by Bayer are in fact fatal to larval (baby) bees. France has banned the use of imidacloprid and related pesticides. Source: and also read:
    Nature Studies by Michael McCarthy: Have we learned nothing since 'Silent Spring'? - Nature Studies, Nature - The Independent
  • last summer i had bees nesting in my birdbox,my poor little birds were booted out by the bees who took over the box,we also had another 2 nests of bees nesting in logs....
    but 1 of my neighbours complained to the local council and said i was BREEDING WASPS...............'idiots'....
    if i were i would of encouraged the wasps to go to there house and sting them...hahaha.
  • There's nowt so queer as folk! Someone saw the slow-worms that live in my garden, and said I kept snakes!
  • I made some lovely bee hotels as suggetsed by Toby on GW. I will miss his good advice.
    I have planted flower borders for the bees and also have masonry bees on my cottage walls. I have to renew the mortar from time to time where they burrow too much. I have solitary bees as well.I have had people complain about the masonry bees but just tell them to walk further out if they are scared!
    I had bumble bees under some big flower pots under a sunny hedge and they were very busy all summer.Hope they survived the winter.
  • That's a great idea about the upturned flower pot. I've hed a bee box for more than three years now and alas no bees inhabited it. I've tried it in different locations and it's currently situated under a large hedge so that they will not be disturbed.
  • I'm trying to make my garden a bit of a sanctuary for wildlife, learning as I go. The garden has a variety of shrubs, which already attract bees (especially the weigela), and last year I began to put in some perennial flowers. Considering these plants were very young, I was thrilled to see how many bees and other insects were now visiting my garden! I can't wait for the plants to get growing again, and to put in a few more, and to see how many insects they manage to attract this year!
  • Every spring i sow wildflower seeds and this is an fantastic way of encouraging wildlife in to any garden from a wide variety of butterflies to the bumble bees and the ladybirds love them.
  • When is the best time to prune hybrid tea roses and when is the best time to prune floribunda roses?
  • fifi - how exciting! Were they black with a red tail by any chance? They are sometimes called stone bumblebees due to their preference for nesting in stone walls. Also, the Bumblebee Conservation Trust would love to hear about your nest, you can fill in a nest survey for them here

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