Tag Archives: Cuckoo bumblebee

Cuckoo bumblebees

Cuckoo bumblebees, as their name suggests, take over the nests of ‘true’ bumblebees. The Cuckoo queen enter their host nest, and kill the existing queen. The remaining workers then rear the cuckoo’s young. The cuckoo bumbles, of which there are six species in Ireland, can be difficult enough to distinguish from true bumbles. However one distinguishing feature is the lack of a pollen basket on the back leg of the bee.

The photo below is of a forest cuckoo bumblebee.  They appear to be having a good year with sightings in Mayo and Clare in the last couple of weeks

They are probably one of the easier species to identify with their large white tails and their single yellow band.

 

Foest Cuckoo bumbebee

Forest Cuckoo bumblebee Bombus sylvestris

Note: no pollen basket on bee on left but Garden bumblebee on right (a true bumblebee) the pollen basket is obvious.

 

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Bees, brassicas and comfrey

Those of you that are regular readers will know I have a soft spot for bees and pollinators in general. Today, with a bit of sunshine, and the bees seemed to be out in force. Over the last week I have seen the first of the workers bumblebees though the queens have been around since mid March. At this time of year there is not a lot flowering in my garden (something I am trying to address), so I always leave some brassicas to flower. The bees don’t appear to have any preference. There is purple sprouting broccoli, brussel sprouts and three types of kale all flowering at the moment.

Bumblebee and brassica

Bumblebee and brassica

Today I counted four different bumblebee species feeding on the flowers, and both queens and workers. Usually the workers are considerably smaller.

White tailed bumblebee, Bombus Lucorum

White tailed bumblebee, Bombus Lucorum

Common Carder Bee, Bombus pascurum

Common Carder Bee, Bombus pascurum

There were also four different hoverflies and a single species of solitary bee. Some of the pollinators were also feeding on the comfrey flowers.

Hoverfly, Rhingia campestris

Hoverfly, Rhingia campestris

Dronefly

Dronefly

Then, while in the greenhouse, I noticed an unusual bee. It had a white tail but only one yellow band. I went looking for my identification guide and I am pretty sure it is a Forest Cuckoo bumblebee.

Forest Cuckoo bee, Bombus sylvestris

Forest Cuckoo bee, Bombus sylvestris

Not the best photo I am afraid. The cuckoo bumblebee, as its name suggests, lays its eggs in another bees nest and does nothing else to rear their own young. The forest cuckoo’s host is the Early bumblebee (Bombus pratorum) which also occur in our garden.