Yesterday I had a call from a farmer, half a mile up the road. He has bees in his hay barn. I went along to see and was able to identify them from the chart I brought with me as Bombus hypnorum, a new species to this country and rapidly spreading. They have an orange hairy thorax, a mainly black abdomen with a white blob at the tail. Unlike most bumbles, they usually prefer to next above ground.
Rupert is concerned because he is expecting 1,000 bales of hay to arrive any minute to fill his barn and he doesn’t want the people doing the hefting to be frightened or to get stung. He doesn’t want to commit insecticide though.
What, after discussion, he decided to do is gently to shift some more of last year’s bales to fit around the nest to help disguise it, to protect it from compression and jolting, and to create more space on the other side of the barn for the new bales to be stacked.
Last week I had an email from a doctor I know who is, by degrees, moving into an old house a couple of miles away in the same direction. He was starting to demolish a wood shed but found bees flying from it! I have a hive and an apprentice in the paddock next door, so there was a possibility of them being a swarm of honeybees so I hurried along, let myself in and checked. They were Bombus hypnorum! I advised Marcus to leave them alone for a couple of months, by which time they would be gone.
Last year I had a call from a lady in Weymouth, 16 miles south of here about bothersome bees in a bird box in her garden. I stuffed a sponge in the hole, unscrewed the box and brought it home. It spent the summer sitting close to my back door and I was able to watch them when I had the time. They were no bother. I wonder whether the 2 local colonies I described earlier are their descendants?