Monday, 4 July 2016

Homeless bees

Those honey bees have it easy.  When it rains or gets dark they can head home to a nice warm dry hive where honey is waiting.  The male honey bees (drones) have it even easier, being fed by the worker bees so they don't even have to find their own food.  Pity, then, the poor male bumblebees who are turfed out of the nest as soon as they can fly and have to forage for nectar to support themselves.  Worse still, they aren't allowed back in even if it is dark or raining.  So if you know where to look you can find lots of bees sleeping rough, with no home to go to.  The same applies to both male and female cuckoo bees who, by definition, have no nest as the females take advantage of true bumblebees by laying eggs in their nests.

Looking round the garden on a cold wet July evening(!) I found dozens of cuckoo bumblebees (probably Bombus vestalis or B. bohemicus) sleeping on or under the flowers of Cirsium rivulare, one of their favourite food plants.

These cuckoo bumblebees were sleeping in Astrantia.

Also sleeping out in the rain were male early bumblebees (Bombus pratorum) who had no home to go to.

And a worker common carder bee (Bombus pascuorum).

I was surprised to find only one bee asleep in the foxgloves, a garden bumblebee (Bombus hortorum).  I would have thought foxgloves would provide a perfect weather-proof bivouac but the bees seem to favour sleeping on their preferred food plants.

In the morning I could find common carder bees and garden bumblebees chilled and covered in dew.

Flying around, sipping nectar and chasing females all day sounds like a great life but it is not all fun and games being a bumblebee.


  1. Those poor bedraggled wet bees! On cold summer nights I will think of the poor old male bumblebees, out there with only a flower for protection...

  2. It's a brilliant way to learn titbits of natural history - great post!