Among the e-mails this morning was one from our BKA Secretary asking if anybody would be willing to help a lady in Weymouth who wanted to be rid of a nest of bumble bees in a bird box. Always willing to play with bees, I rang the lady and offered to come and see what I could do.
I armed myself with a blanket and a sponge and, aided by my gps, headed for the address. It started to rain for the first time in weeks. The lady greeted me and showed me the bees, explaining that she meant them no harm but a family member was coming to stay and she is very allergic, needing an epipen.
The bird box was screwed to some ornamental woodwork adjoining a terrace and could be reached. The bees didn’t seem too happy when I tilted it slightly to see how firmly it was fixed. I got my kit and dressed in veil and overalls with the assistance of the lady, Jane van der Merwe, who tucked me in in a motherly way.
First I shoved the sponge into the entrance. It being relatively cool and moist, I think the great majority of the bees were trapped within. Then, with the aid of Jane’s screwdriver, I unscrewed the screw, managing to avoid dropping the box. I didn’t get stung.
I took them home and balanced the box in an out of the way spot, but visible from my window, on top of the roof of an empty WBC hive. I withdrew the sponge and stood clear to watch the first few bees emerging. They had white tails and my first thought was that they were Bombus lucorum, the white tailed bumble bee, but I thought I ought to check. I looked at my copy of Insects of Britain and Northen Europe and found that it isn’t lucorum as it lacks a the yellow stripes of that species. I couldn’t, however, find a picture that matched!
I needed a closer look so used a naturalist’s plastic catcher, complete with magnifying glass, to catch one for a closer look. Eventually, with the aid of wikipedia, I identified it as Bombus hypnorum. The reason it isn’t in the book is that it was first found in Great Britain in 2001! I went on line and recorded it on the Bee, Wasp and Ant Recording Society (BWARS) website.