Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Buying a Bumble bee colony

You may remember I had seen on Jimmys Farm a bee box ready supplied with bumble bees- i loved this idea and wanted to see if I could find a source of these boxes- i got a few responses from my emails.

I discovered however that the species of bee in the boxes you can buy are actually not native species and mainly sold to pollinate greenhouse crops- so should not be released into the wild. Tut tut Mr Doherty!

I got a great response from Dr. Ben Darvill the Bumblebee Conservation Trust Director from the University of Sterling who wrote:

"Sadly the boxes of live bees currently available in the UK for use in commercial greenhouses are a sub-species from abroad. It is a criminal offence to wilfully allow reproductives (new queens and males) to be released into the wild because of the threat they pose to our native bees. In time we may be lucky enough to have a UK supplier of bumblebee colonies, and these would be a valuable interpretive and educational tool. However, a degree of caution is needed, because placing one of these boxes in unsuitable habitat would lead rapidly to a starving bee colony! Step one is to ensure that gardens, parks and the wider countryside are as full as possible with bumblebee-friendly flowers, and advice on this is on our website. Suitable habitat will be naturally occupied by bees, so there really is no need to buy colonies, other than for interest and education."

I got another email from Graham Collins who gave me these links on how to make my own Bumble bee box.

"Bumblebee nest boxes seems to be almost as common as bird boxes. A quick 'Google' for "bumblebee nest box" reveals numerous sites where they are available. They can be quite expensive, and the following links explain more about the principals involved and how to make one yourself -

I don't think you should try to buy active nests (wrong time of year anyway) since as far as I know the only available ones contain foreign strains of bees which are not supposed to be released into the wild (I think they are meant for pollination of glasshouse crops). They are more likely to harm wild populations than help them, and should be banned.

You should find out more about them before getting nests, and I would recommend Field Guide to the Bumblebees of Great Britain and Ireland by Edwards and Jenner, available here:

This will explain the life history and how to attract them to your garden. Also that for all species it is only the queen that survives the winter and new colonies are founded each year. The earliest species are just beginning to emerge at the moment so you should have a month or two to get set up."

Im not quite sure i've got a spare £60 to spend on a book on bumble bees tho!

So i think the best idea to get Bumble bees in my garden would be to get my own bumble bee box and hopefully next year a wild a queen bumblebee will move in.

My dad on the other hand is halfway through his Honey Bee keeping course- he is due to be getting his own hive of Honey Bees in his garden about May time- quite exciting!

1 comment:

  1. blue tits ave vacated a bird box in my garden and bees have moved in. two or three bees patrol the outside of the birdbox hole most of the time. something is going on in the box, lots of bees entering and leaving, ive read somewhere that the bees will eventually swarm out of the box, i hope my family are in no danger, ivee warned them to keep away from the box. watc this space.


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