Balmy spring and summer days may be some way off, but one insect we associate with summer may already be out and about. The bumblebee, notably the Buff-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) is our earliest wild bee to be on the wing at this time of year.
Over the last 100 years the flight period of many bumblebees has advanced one or two months with warmer winters. This is most noticeable in the south, especially in warmer urban areas with a wider range of winter flowers.
Although sunny days are better for seeing winter bumblebees (with the sun warming them to flying temperature), with their larger size, furry insulating coats and internal ability (shivering their flight muscles) to raise their body temperature, they are also able to fly and feed at lower temperatures on overcast days. The urban Buff-tailed has taken this cold adaptation further with potentially up to three breeding cycles each year (each with a separate queen) stretching activity through the winter months to capitalize on early pollen and nectar ahead of other pollinators.
This is an extract from the January Newsletter published by Chislehurst Commons. The newsletter features news from the commons, fabulous photos and details of things to look out for this month. Click here for a direct link. If you would like to join their mailing list to receive the regular monthly newsletter, please email firstname.lastname@example.org