Making a Buzz for the Coast

Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Kent: Making a Buzz for the CoastOne of our supporters is the Kent Branch of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust. Lauren Kennedy, Outreach and Volunteer Officer is our contact there and she has passed on this wonderful blog post written by Patricia Dove, one of their trainees. It gives a lovely insight into the life of bumblebees and how we can all help them.

To help inspire your crafty creativity, why not explore the great outdoors and look for one of our 24 species of bumblebees living in Great Britain.

Shrill carder bumblebee (Bombus sylvarum). Photo credit: Ray Reeves.

Here in Kent you can find 22 of the 24 bumblebee species, which includes one of the rarest bumblebees the Shrill Carder Bee (Bombus sylvarum).

Making a Buzz for the Coast is a Bumblebee Conservation Trust led project aiming to create and restore excellent bumblebee habitat from Dartford to Deal. Each species of bumblebee has their own characteristics to identify them but they all have the same lifecycle. The season for bees is in full swing, here is how it all begins.

As temperatures increase in spring bumblebee queens have come out of their hibernation from the cold winter months. With the first stop being the early spring flowers like crocus, winter heathers and lungwort to gain the energy and fat required to search a nesting spot for this year. Bumblebees will usually nest underground in natural hollows or old rodent holes, in long grass of undisturbed grassland and meadows or hollows in trees. Once the queen finds the perfect spot for her nest, she will collect pollen and nectar to store in a pot shaped wax structure. She will then start laying her eggs keeping them warm by shivering. After the eggs have turned to larvae she will forage on nearby flowers feeding her brood for about 2 weeks until they develop in to adult bees. Those first broods of offspring will be workers, female bumblebees. The queen will then stay in the nest and her worker bees will do the foraging, cleaning and guarding of the nest. As the bumblebees reach late spring and early summer, the workers start to collect from a huge variety of seasonal flowering plants such as apple blossom, foxgloves, and borage. Unlike the more commonly known honeybee, the bumblebee nest is much smaller with 50-400 residents, compared to 50,000 to 100,000 for the honeybees.

As the season continues into late summer the bumblebee nests start to change and begin to produce new queens and males. The new queens will keep close to the nest, mating, feeding and storing fats on late summer flowers like Catmint, lavenders, and Knapweed, for their hibernation to come that winter. The male bumblebees will leave the nest and not return again, but will look for new queens from other nests to mate with. The old nest will then come to an end and as will the life cycle of the workers and previous queen. Leaving only the new queens to seek shelter underground for the winter months and start the cycle again next spring.

A bumblebee’s life cycle has one crucial cog to it success and this is the flowering plants that we provide throughout all seasons. Having this variety throughout the seasons allows bumblebees to feed all year round and create successful nests. From balcony’s and window boxes to gardens, planting something for bumblebees could make a huge difference! To find out how bee friendly your garden is visit Beekind.

How Bee friendly is your garden

By selecting all the plants in your green space Beekind will generate a score and provide suggestions of additional plants that will suit your garden. Or if you’re starting with a blank canvas, Beekind and resources on our website can help you pick the right plants for your green space to  a bumblebee hot spot.

To find out more about what’s happening in your local area and what you can do for bumblebees, visit our website:

Patricia Dove
Skills for Bees Outreach Trainee with Making a Buzz for the Coast