Tree Bumble Bees Make Placid Neighbours

#30DaysWild no 29. The tree bumblebee nest at Beech Lodge is still going strong, with bees coming and going and doing their own thing.

Tree bumblebees are unusual in nesting off the ground, often in roofs or bird boxes. They’ve only been in this country in the past 20 years. But we’ve seen them frequently at Wheatland Farm since we found a nest in an old woodshed back in 2015. Like all bumblebees they’re docile and placid, and don’t want to pick a fight with people. But sometimes humans get worried when they see several bees apparently ‘swarming’ around the entrance to the nest.

Don’t worry – on two counts. By the time you notice this the colony is getting towards the end of its natural life anyway (July). And these individuals are most likely males, which don’t have a sting. They are hanging out at the nest entrance in the hope of mating with a newly emerged queen bee as she leaves the nest.

The bees in this tiny clip are probably workers, going on foraging trips to feed the growing larvae.

This nest is in the eaves of Beech Eco Lodge, and has been there through numerous cycles of holidaymakers, so we’re not anticipating problems. Tree bumblebees are great at pollinating flowers like raspberries, and in fact bumblebees are widely used in the horticultural sector to boost crops. So we should be welcoming them as we eat our scones and raspberry jam!

Previously on #30DaysWild

This time last year: we were refurbishing the Wheatland Farm tandem in advance of the holiday season opening up again here in Devon. And the bike is still available for jaunts. It suits couples wanting an adventurous way to go out for lunch to a local pub, or a parent wanting more control over biking with a child. This one is an ‘ask’ bike and is usually kept locked. (Most of our other eco lodge bikes are just available to borrow from the bike shed). So just come and ask Ian it you want to take it out.

This time in 2019: The brimstone caterpillars had outpaced the leaf growth on the alder buckthorn we planted at Nuthatch Lodge. And they’ve done it again. That poor plant has been stripped bare by four or five hungry butterfly caterpillars. Once again, we wondered whether to take the caterpillars off to spare the sapling, but refrained. It generally puts out a new flush of leaves, and we were hoping at least one caterpillar would build its chrysalid on the plant so we could watch an adult butterfly emerge later in the year. We can’t spot one at the moment, but they do blend in very well.

This time in 2018Baby rabbits were pretending that if they couldn’t see us, we couldn’t see them – and we were talking about recording mammals with the mammal society. So it’s nice to be able to note that for the past 2 days a fox has been sunning itself on the path below Balebarn Eco Lodge in the afternoons. Unlike urban foxes, rural ones are shy because they are still at risk from the local Eggesford Hunt all winter (don’t get us started!). So they are always a treat to see.