Bees and Climate Change

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!

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27 thoughts on “Bees and Climate Change

  1. Miranda

    I find this news of concern but I would like to know what I can do and how I can help if there are bumblybees waking up and seeking food before Spring. Are there winter plants that could help? If there something in pots (a sugar mix) that we could put out for bees?! Thank you for keeping bees in our consciousness xx

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    1. Murtagh's Meadow Post author

      I am thinking of doing a “how you can help post” next. But try some winter flowering heather in a pot. And if you do find a bee sluggish and not up to much stick her on the heather. There is a sugar solution you can give, will look that up. Watch this space!

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  2. Julie

    Lets hope that Trump does not withdraw from the Paris Agreement. There was some hope that at last Climate Change was universally recognised until recent events.
    In the wild, Gorse provides pollen but I’ve read its not decided if that plant can produce nectar too?? And Willow, early crocus, but really very few plants have evolved yet to provide food for Bumbles waking up early.

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    1. Murtagh's Meadow Post author

      Today read that ” that those that do [native plants] (e.g. Gorse) do not provide sufficient or suitable forage to support winter bumblebee colonies”. If you click the “evidence” link on the post it will bring you to the full article. Will have to read up more on gorse – as I think the bee keepers like it so the honeybees must get something from it.

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    1. Murtagh's Meadow Post author

      Thankful either have I – put I have seen a queen wasp and I expect they would suffer similarly. Our first bees usually appear mid March.

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  3. Meanderer

    It’s not good news. I’m pleased that you are looking at positive things we can do – otherwise it all feels so overwhelming and hopeless.

    The weather is certainly ‘off’. I’ve been out early a few mornings this week, in the frost and fog, and although the landscape looked very cold and typically Winterish, the rising sun was very warm. It felt like one of those mid-Summer mornings where there is a damp chill in the air before a scorcher; very discombobulating!

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  4. macdowelltaylor

    I find this post reassuring. You may find that odd, but I live in the United States and just yesterday our Environmental Protection Agency scientists were put under a gag order from sharing their findings on climate change. And there is talk that their research will undergo “presidential review” before they may continue. That is a frightening prospect but I am at least a bit hopeful that others in the world are still working on the problem. In the interim I hope there’s a way to help the bees. And that America comes to her senses.

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    1. Murtagh's Meadow Post author

      I had heard the your EPA was coming under pressure from the Trump administration. Politically, I think many of our governments are falling short. I feel that we as individuals must step up to the mark and do what WE can.

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  5. Pingback: Simple Steps | Murtagh's Meadow

  6. Jane

    Poor old Bumblebees – yes, immediate thought is what can I plant to provide food if they do wake up? I’ll get some pots of Mahonia and whatever you suggest and will get the granddaughters in on the act as you say. Got to do something.

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