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Why so some bees flourish?


There are occasions when you hear an interesting piece of news that gets the neurones humming, when more than one piece of information can lead to a thought, and where putting together thoughts can lead to perhaps a new perspective on a problem.

There has been a bit of a discussion about some orchard growers importing bumble bees into the UK for their pollination abilities.

Imported bumble bees pose 'parasite threat' to native bees ran the headline on BBC online, and the article went on to describe that the 40,000 or so bumble bees that are imported into the UK may have problematic diseases – OK, not an issue like the horsemeat scandal nor Blue tongue or anything like that, but nevertheless, a biosecurity concern.

And then I was shown some pictures of bumble bees colonising one of the many gate posts dotted around our research farm and biodiversity centre at Chishill near Cambridge.

They were tree bees or Bombus hypnorum, a very colourful bumble bee as can be seen from the photographs. However, this is an alien or non-native species having come in from France a number of years ago. Having first arrived in 2001, it is thriving and spreading north rapidly.


So here comes the link; there are some bumble bees doing well in the UK, others which are in decline. There is no reason to presume that different bumble bees significantly differ in sensitivity to pesticides and Bombus hypnorum forages on the same flowers as those bumble bees in decline.

Except Bombushypnorum nests in tit boxes, gate posts and holes in trees, which might suggests that nesting sites may well be the limiting factor for a number of these declining bumble bees (and perhaps solitary bees) rather than food sources or exposure to pesticides. OK, I know that some of the decline is higher in specialist bees; indeed I am not suggesting that this works for all bees, or even all bumble bees, but I am pleased to see this particular bumble bee flourishing here at the farm, and am glad that bee hotels for solitary bees are becoming more commonplace.

Bee Hotel