Saturday 3 March 2012

Red tailed bumble feeding

My red tailed queen
(Click photo to enlarge)
After a very mild winter Spring seems to have arrived over the last few days with sunshine and warm weather prompting the bees to fly.

I'm very pleased to report that all four of my honeybee hives (all no-treatment low intervention) have bees flying and brining in a steady supply of pollen - see short video clip here.

I have also seen several bumble queens which have presumably emerged from hibernation and are in the process of fattening up on nectar before starting their new nests.

Only yesterday I was photographing bees on the crocus when I noticed a queen red tailed bumble (bombus lapidarius) who seemed to be in trouble - she was struggling to stay on the flowers and kept falling too the grass below. She was either cold or hungry so I intervened (you can smack my hand later) by holding her in the sun and giving her a couple of drops of my honey - see video below where, if you maximise the video, you can clearly see her tongue protruding from her maxilla. It did the trick and within 10 minutes she was off flying and collecting her own nectar. Let's hope she sets up a strong colony and I look forward to a garden full of bumbles.
Feeding on 'safe' honey - see tongue working
(click the 'You Tube' icon bottom right of panel to view full screen)

The same bee recovered.

Warning:  It can be very dangerous feeding honey to any species of bee as most shop bought honey is a blend of honeys from all over the world and contains virus spores for bee diseases. We are fortunate in that some of these diseases are not endemic to the UK. However feeding bees infected honey introduces these diseases and may can easily result in many colonies in a 5 mile area around the infection having to be destroyed to keep the disease out. Please therefore don't feed them honey under any circumstances, instead use jam or a simple sugar/water solution. In this instance I used honey from one of my own hives which I knew to be disease free so I could make an exception.

Wild Bees
It saddens me that so many bee groups and associations completely ignore our wild bees and only interest themselves in the exploitable honeybee. It's true that only honeybees produce honey that we can eat, but the bumbles and solitaries are so interesting and it is them that do the majority of our flower and crop pollination - around 80% of it. Thank you YABeeP for supporting all of our bees!

Robin Morris

3rd March 2012