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Well, maybe not exactly in town but they are certainly back in our gardens.

The warmer weather has brought back the gentle hum of bees as they start to collect pollen and nectar, rebuilding their food stores. It is now that the difference between honey and bumble bees will be most apparent, in that the number of honey bees will far outweigh those of the bumble variety.

Thousands of honey bees will have kept the nest warm and safe, eating and working throughout the winter and will now be emerging to replenish their food stocks. Dandelions and clover will be amongst their favourites until the bulbs appear.

 

Bumble bees, however, do not live throughout the winter. Instead, only the Queen survives, having mated and gone into deep hibernation. She wakes in the spring with two things on her mind: finding a suitable nesting spot in which she can build a wax pot to store her honey, and gathering nectar and pollen. Laying her eggs on the pollen, she will sit on them to keep them warm, surviving on the honey in her pot. Mostly it’s the worker bees who are born first and these are tasked with the household chores and, of course, foraging for food. As the season progresses, the queen will eventually lay eggs that will become the queens and drones of the future, and the cycle is ready to repeat.

Some bees have, over time, become active pollinators during specific seasons, establishing a kind of “pollinator love affair” with certain flowers. Others simply pollinate any flower that takes their fancy such as the Crocus, Snowdrop and Scilla.

Spot the difference

Not sure if you are looking at a honey or a bumble bee? Here are some things to look out for. Honey bees have narrow stripes on their backs, whereas bumble bees display wide bands of colour that start at the head and go right down their body. Whilst honey bees have some hair on their head and backs, bumble bees have a real shock of hair right along their body. They differ in shape too, with honey bees having a waist and a pointed abdomen, unlike bumble bees which are rounder all over and have a broad middle.

First published in the March/April 2019 issue of The Local Buzz

Images: Shutterstock