1. There are 250 species of bumblebee worldwide.
2. Estimates suggest that the number of bumblebee species in lowland Britain have reduced between 50 and 70% since the 1950s.
3. Their family name is Bombus. One of my favorite Latin names is for the Great Yellow Bumblebee -Bombus distinguendus, closely followed by the Red-tailed Bumblebee – Bombus lapidarius.
4. The queen bee is the largest bumblebee followed by the female worker bee with the male (drone) bee being the smallest. Bumblebee workers can weigh between 0.04g and 0.60 g, whilst queens can weigh as much as 0.85g.
5. Depending on the species of bumblebee, worker bee's tongues can vary in size from 6mm to 12mm.
6. Bumblebees have four wings; the two rear wings are small and are usually attached to the fore wings by a row of hooks called hamuli.
7. Bumblebees will pollinate flowers, fruit and vegetables in the garden, but produce very small amounts of honey.
8. Bumblebees live in smaller groups than honey bees and do not tend to swarm.
9. Bumblebees will not die if they use their sting, whereas honey bees will. In fact drone bees do not have a sting.
10. A cuckoo bumblebee lays its eggs in another bumblebee's nest and leaves the workers of that nest to rear its young.
So how can we help to conserve bumblebees in our garden? They need access pollen and nectar in flowers from March to September each year. What are the best flowers we can grow in our garden? Well, actually it is the traditional cottage garden flowers and native wildflowers. Bumblebees need to have access to a range of flowers that can accommodate their different tongue lengths.
These flowers will also benefit honeybees and butterflies and many of the fruit trees will also provide the added bonus of fruit in the summer and autumn too! In March and April apple, bluebell, cherry, heather, pear, plum, will benefit bumblebees. From May to August beneficial flowers include alliums, campanula, catmint, chives, cornflower, lavender, marjoram, mint, wallflower, red clover, honeysuckle, sage, and thyme, and a number of these herbs are an excellent accompaniment in cooking.
I have planted a number of herbs this year in a sensory bed, good for the senses in terms of what you see, touch, taste and smell and it is good to hear the bumblebees too!