Our Bumblebee Identification Course yesterday was a great success. The Heritage Lottery sponsored our course which allowed us to invite Dr Richard Comont Science Officer for the Bumblebee Conservation Trust to run the day for us.
We started the day in the Jenner Hall with two presentations. The first covered bumblebee ecology in which Richard used his incredible depth of knowledge to explain how bumblebee populations have changed in response to habitat changes. Species rich meadows like North Meadow are ideal habitat for bumblebees. The second presentation was a logical and very clear explanation of how to identify the commoner species and split them between queen bees, worker bees and male bees. We also learned about how to send in records using the Bee Walk Scheme.
After lunch we walked to North Meadow to see if we could find and identify any of the bumblebees we discussed during the morning. On arriving at the meadow we enjoyed the spectacle of meadow buttercups glowing yellow in the bright sunshine. We soon found some bees on the large patches of flowering red clover.
We attempted to use our newly acquired identification skills and were pleased to find a red tailed cuckoo bumblebee queen. Cuckoo bumblebees are parasitic and this one takes over the nest of the red tailed bumblebee. It was good to see as they are usually hard to find and are an indicator of a heathy host species population.
This was quickly followed by queens and workers of the buff tailed and garden bumblebees. We were able inspect them closely in clear specimen pots.
In all we found queens and workers of 5 species only the early bumblebee and tree bumblebee were missing from the species around at this time of year.
Very satisfied with our relaxing and enjoyable field trip we made our way back to the Jenner Hall for a final cup of tea and chat. We felt we had learned a great deal thanked our tutor Richard for sharing his passion, knowledge and enthusiasm for these fascinating insects.
Recording bumblebees is a very important part of their conservation and quite a few of our 15 course participants are now thinking about taking part in the Bee Walk Scheme.
Our feedback on the day was overwhelmingly positive with so many very nice comments about how much everyone had enjoyed the day. Here are some examples.
“Time flew by-the sign of a great day. Very knowledgeable and informative tutor, and the guided walk really helped cement our learning”
“Thank you. Well organised, welcoming, interesting, well pitched, motivating to protect meadow and get involved in conservation”
” I love how passionate of all of the contributors were about not only the bumblebees but the wildlife and history of Cricklade – You have a real gem here!”