Does this classic title provide a clue to the decline of our top pollinator?
- Wild bumblebees, hover flies and other insects together pollinate more crops and wild flowers than do honeybees.
- There are 25 different bumblebees native to the UK, perhaps five are common.
- Small colonies, usually of no more than 100, live in holes in the ground, dry walls and even compost heaps!
- They forage over only small distances, just a few hundred yards.
- Not only do bumblebees fly in inclement weather, their muscular strength, furry surface, variable size and length of tongue, make them extremely efficient pollinators.
- By a fascinating process known as ‘buzz pollination’, they are almost the only pollinators of blueberries, strawberries and beans.
- Only 3% of UK wild flowers depend on honeybees for their pollination.
- Research seems to suggest that when bumblebees are present, honeybees move more quickly from flower to flower and thereby pollinate with increased efficiency.
My own four gardens are alive with bumblebees. They just love our flowers! At the moment Sedum spectabilis, michaelmas daisies and giant eupatorium just buzz when the sun shines. No dig gardens are ideal places for bumblebees to nest in the ground.
Unfortunately the bumblebee is in decline. Recent research points a finger at neonicotinoids, used as a seed coating in agriculture. It is alleged that contaminated pollen and nectar can disorientate bumblebees and some fail to return to their nest.
Another reason for bumblebees’ decline is the discontinuity of habitat. They do not have large stores of honey and do not fly very far, therefore need stability of nectar supply. Our gardens can plug the gap vacated by nature and together they can provide flight corridors for bumblebees to spread to new territories.
|(above and below) Bumblebees often have many mites but most of them do not carry disease.