Bumble bee nests

Today was a very special day!  I cannot believe my luck.  I have always seen a lot of bumble bees in the garden and felt that there must be nests in the garden.  In the spring I saw the queens exploring in the undergrowth, searching for a promising hole but I have never found a nest until now.  Today I found two!  Je suis comblée!

Bumble leaving the nest

I was at the bottom of the garden under the trees when I noticed bumble bees emerging from the ground.  They were coming from the same spot, emerging slowly, picking their way through the ivy and leaf litter.

White-tailed bumble bee

I would identify it as a White-tailed bumble bee, Bombus lucorum, as none of the bees I saw had any hint of a buff band on their white tail, but please let me know if you disagree.

Returning to the nest

The return to the nest was pretty rapid so I apologise for the quality of the photographs as the bees were in motion.  When they left the nest they seemed to fly around it a bit as if to orient themselves before leaving.  When they returned it was much more of a bee-line entry (sorry about that).

Full yellow pollen sacs

It looks as if this lady has been visiting the sunflower fields which are all around us just now.

Full paler pollen sacs

Her sister has been visiting other plants and come back with less of a booty of a paler coloured pollen.  I have placed a stick near the nest, which can be seen on the left of the photographs, so that I can find it again amongst the under growth.

The second nest I cannot “lose” as it is in the side of the house wall.

Hole in the wall plus a head

I was very surprised to see a head appear from the side of the building.

Bumble emerging

They come out very rapidly.

I am confident of my identification here, a Red-tailed bumble bee, Bombus lapidarusius.

Full pollen sacs

She has had a successful pollen foray.  At 9.30 p.m. this evening there was still activity, I do not know yet when they start in the morning.

I will be very interested to watch the nests as I do not think that the breeding of the bumble bees is the same as in the UK.  The Bumble Bee Conservation Trust gives us a general picture of bumble bees nesting in the spring and the nest lasting until August when the new queens appear.  These queens will hibernate during the winter to start the process again in the following spring.  However, they note that since the 1980’s the buff-tailed bumble bees have become more-or-less continuously brooded in the south of England.  I suspect that this may be true of some of the bumble bees in France.

One of “my” bumble bees

Only a short bee flight away from her nest, I am sure that she is one of my bumble bees.


12 thoughts on “Bumble bee nests

  1. How very exciting! I have masses of bumble bees in my garden too, I don’t have a book for identifying them, I must look out for one. I don’t know if there are any nests here, but like you I suspect there must be; I leave leaves etc. on the ground so there are ample suitable places for them. Smaller solitary bees often make their homes in the porous tuffo of the house. Great observation, well done. Christina


    1. I am sure there must be nests in your garden too. Look at http://bumblebeeconservation.org/about-bees/identification/common-bumblebees/ for ID of the common British bumble bees for a start. When I joined I got a big poster for the ID and a little book “Gardening for Bumblebees” by Dave Goulson who is Professor of Ecology and Head of the School of Biological and Environmental Sciences at the University of Stirling, it has lots of interesting facts about their life cycle. These can also be bought from them separately. I often buy through Amazon UK to send to UK addresses and even to France sometimes so I go through their page http://bumblebeeconservation.org/support-us/fundraising/ and they get an amazing 8% of the purchase price for their funds.


    1. If you choose a sunny day to watch there should be enough action for you to notice in just a few minutes. I’d like to count how many come and go but I have not got round to that yet. Too much other stuff to do in the garden!


  2. Excellent. Just yesterday, we demolished an old shed and lo and behold – a bumblebee nest was beneath its foundations. Luckily it is unharmed – I shall try and get some snaps and see whether I can identify them (using your link above). Dave


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