I was pulling up some bindweed by the side of the house when I came across a crack in the ground from which buzzing bees emerged. I put a couple of flags half over the opening to provide a bit of protection and then sat and watched them emerging and reentering the nest. I took some photos and then used a bee identification chart to see that these where white tailed bees.
That triggered my interest in the bees in my garden and I went in search of flowering plants to see what bees I could find. In the far corner of the field I discovered some flowering blackberry bushes tangled up with nettles and thistles and this few square metres was alive with bees from 7am to 7.30pm.
Over the next few days I made several trips to this location, and other flowering plants in the field and recorded the bees and hornets that were feeding on the plants. I found that there were at least five species of bee in this small area – honey bee, white tailed bumble bee (the most abundant bee), red tailed bumble bee, forest cuckoo bee, and a so far unidentified bee. There were also hornets and hover flies that mimicked the bee in colouring and behaviour. Two things struck me - the busyness of the bees and how all these differemt species were coexisting peacefully in the same small area.
I discovered that there are currently 24 species of bumblebee resident in Britain. Seven species of bumblebee (the ‘Big 7’) are widespread across most of Britain. These are: Red-tailed (Bombus lapidarius), Early (Bombus pratorum), Common carder (Bombus pascuorum), White-tailed (Bombus lucorum), Buff-tailed (Bombus terrestris), Garden (Bombus hortorum), Tree (Bombus hypnorum). There is only one bee that produces honey – honey bee.