a french garden

Bumble bee nests

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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.

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Author: afrenchgarden

Born in Scotland I have lived in England, Iran, USA and Greece. The house and land was bought twelve years ago in fulfilment of the dream of living in France that my Francophile husband nurtured. We had spent frequent holidays in France touring the more northerly parts and enjoying the food, scenery, architecture and of course gardens. However, we felt that to retire in France and enjoy a more clement climate than we currently had in Aberdeen we would need to find somewhere south of the river Loire but not too south to make returning to visit the UK onerous. The year 2000 saw us buying our house and setting it up to receive us and the family on holidays. The garden was more a field and we were helped by my son to remove the fencing that had separated the previous owners’ goats, sheep and chickens. We did inherit some lovely old trees and decided to plant more fruit trees that would survive and mature with the minimum of care until we took up permanent residence. The move took place in 2006 and the love hate relation with the “garden” started. There was so much to do in the house that there was little energy left for the hard tasks in the garden. It was very much a slow process and a steep learning curve. Expenditures have been kept to a minimum. The majority of the plants have been cuttings and I try to gather seeds wherever I can. The fruit trees have all been bought but we have tender hearts and cannot resist the little unloved shrub at a discount price and take it as a matter of honour to nurse it back to health. This year I have launched my Blog hoping to reach out to other gardeners in other countries. My aim is to make a garden for people to enjoy, providing shady and sunny spots with plants that enjoy living in this area with its limestone based subsoil and low rainfall in a warm summer. Exchanging ideas and exploring mutual problems will enrich my experience trying to form my French garden.

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

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  2. Fantastic! Your garden is obviously very bee-friendly.

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  3. This is so neat! I have a stone retaining wall that I think has hosted a bumblebee nest or two, but I haven’t had the patience to catch them coming out.

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    • 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!

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  4. 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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  5. How lovely. We had a nest by the back door for a while but not this year. You will be able to get some super shots from the wall nest hole. Lovely post.

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  6. A welcome post, read in the cold of midwinter, that summer will be here again soon(ish)

    Just found your blog and look forward to reading more of your gardening adventures!

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