Today (21.2.14) I saw the first bumble bee in my plum tree with a very healthy looking pollen load. I’ve been seeing lots of queens throughout the winter but none were gathering pollen. This one has decided its time to start making use of the abundant blossom pollen that is around and start building a nest.
The next first is not so nice so don’t look at the next two photographs if you are of a sensitive disposition. I noticed a tiny mining bee making a hole in the ground beside the stem of a daisy in the grass.
It was not until I had looked at the photographs on the computer that I realised that there was a gaping hole in its abdomen. I suppose a parasite has made a meal out part of the bee and it will not survive for much longer.
Passing on, I was surprised to notice several new heaps of soil underneath the plum tree which means that the first mining bees are emerging. It seems very early and I am not quite as far on as I had hoped in my reading. Last year there were two types of mining bee under the plum tree that I saw. I watched the holes as much as I could but I saw no bees coming and going.
And fourthly, I saw my first Bombus lapidarius of the year. She was looking still very groggy from her winter hibernation and was walking around in the grass.
In fact, I was getting a bit concerned for her well being and I tried to give her some sugar and water and I put her on a sunny stone step to warm up. She ignored the sugar and water but enjoyed the sunshine and finally lifted off with the grace of a vertical take-off jet.
According to F.W.L. Sladen the only species I could confuse her with is Bombus ruderarius which although much rarer is very similar but has red hairs around the corbicula or pollen basket.
While she was sunbathing I got a good picture of her hind legs and the black hair, so I am satisfied she is Bombus lapidarius, or the red-tailed bumblebee.
Like all the bumblebees she loves our Wisteria.
This photograph is from August last year and shows the male. He has yellow hair on his face and a yellow band in front of the black thorax.
I like bees and I’d like to think the feeling is mutual.