This morning on the radio they were talking about bumblebees seen on Christmas day around Dublin (Ireland). Female bumblebees should be hibernating during the winter! So what is happening? Has it got anything to do with climate change?
Here in Ireland, we certainly seem to be having milder winters. This year we are fluctuating between cold days and exceptionally mild days (sometimes up to 12 degrees). Bumblebees wake up if it is warm. The problem for a bumblebee waking at this time of year is that it may find it hard to find food. Not many plants flower during the winter and those that do may not have a nectar source. There are some exceptions of course (e.g. Mahonia, winter flowering heather) but often these are not native plants and are only found in gardens. In the UK, there is some evidence that suggests Buff tailed bumblebees are managing to feed winter colonies. However, this is only in areas where there are plenty gardens with winter flowering plants. If you are a bumble that wakes up in the countryside where are you going to find food?
When we have a winter like this one, with fluctuating temperatures, a bee may wake up a number of times. Each time it wakes it uses up vital energy resources. By the time spring really comes the poor bee may be too weak to build a nest, and start a new colony.
Fewer bees means less pollination. Less pollination means less fruit and vegetables and poor quality produce.
Climate change was in the news too this morning, with scientists saying that things may be worse than we thought. The question is where are we heading? And it’s not just bees I am worried about. It’s all of us!