Tree Bumblebee - Bombus hypnorum

26th June 2012
I first heard about the Tree Bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum) and its successful migration through the UK, last summer (2011). I hadn't been aware of ever seeing one, but once I knew what to look for, I spotted one within a couple of days; in my local churchyard.

This year, my first sighting was a few days ago in Jephson Park in Leamington Spa. There is a colony in the eaves of the Gatehouse there. I didn't have my camera with me and was planning on a return visit to get some 2012 images. I didn't have to as I spotted this one; once again in my local churchyard. It was a fleeting glimpse as it foraged in a group of Rough Hawkbit (Leontodon hispidus) flowers. I got some "grabbed" shots though, before it flew off.

This bee is relatively new to the UK, being first recorded in 2001 on the Hampshire/Wiltshire border. Once established in the South, it began to extend its range steadily northwards and has now been recorded in most of England and in many areas in South and Mid-Wales. The 2011 report and distribution map from the Bees, Wasps & Ants Recording Society (BWARS) website can be seen here.

I struggle with the identification of many bumblebees, but Bombus hypnorum has a very characteristic appearance with its black head, gingery/brown thorax and blackish abdomen with a white "tail". There is some variation in appearance with some "dark" examples; but any bumblebee showing the "typical" colouration can't really be anything else.

Bombus hypnorum can be found in a range of habitats including parks and gardens. It likes to nest above ground, including tree holes and roof spaces. There have been lots of reports of them using birdboxes. If you live on the edge of its current territory, do look out for it and report any sightings to BWARS.

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