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Beekeeping, Bumblebees, Drones, Honey Bees, Queens, Varroa etc

I have heard of bees in trees, but tree bees?

Allow me to introduce you to Bombus hypnorum, the tree bee:

Or, I would if you can see the Bombus Hypnorum tucked into this old bird nest…. By Orangeaurochs from Sandy, Bedfordshire, United Kingdom [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Apparently, introductions are required in the UK, for even though this is a bumblebee common to Europe, it has only just recently made its way to the UK (first observed in 2001). It has moved as far west as Iceland in 2008. It has been receiving some attention recently, and came to my notice with my latest British Beekeeping News (Tree: Bumblebees: Why All the Fuss by Clive Hill, Feb 2014) and through the RSPB.

I think we are all familiar with the translation for ‘bombus,’ the rather onomatopoetic (sounds like what it is) name for the humble bumble (bee). However, I am having the devil of a time with translating ‘hypnorum.’  No, it cannot be translated as ‘tree,’ or ‘high.’  The closest I get is ‘hypnos’ as a root, which is Greek for ‘sleep,’ ‘slumber.’ If anyone can enlighten me, please do. I will keep working on it….

Bombus Hypnorum is noted for its ginger thorax and black abdomen, and is probably known as the ‘tree’ bumblebee not necessarily because it is a tree-dweller, but because it nests up high.  We are more familiar with bumble bee nests within our own sphere, for instance in compost heaps or under decks as my associates and I recorded last summer.

Bombus Hypnorum ©entomart [Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons

RSPB–isn’t that for birds? Well, yes it is. It would seem that the Tree Bee and the Bird have something in common in that while trees are fine, nest boxes can be just as good, even better. If you see a group of bees (or even one very persistent one)hovering outside one of your nest boxes, chances are you have a hive in the nest box and the hoverers are males, looking for a bit of bee love from new queens.  Or, according to another blogging friend, Miss Apis Mellifera, those drones may well be hanging about to protect the hive, in a fierce way like. Clive Hill in the BBKA article assures us that it is more defensive than aggressive. He also notes that the calls to local beekeeping associations to collects tree bumblebee hives are on the rise. There are a few youtube videos that show B. Hypnorum in action, including one by Clive himself: here and here and here

[Incidentally, I dug the BBKA issue out of our haphazard stack of mags in the conservatory and had to flick off a little pile of bird poo to read the author’s name. Which indicates that someone has hopped into the conservatory to take a snoop around and obviously had an opinion on tree bumblebees…]

The Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society does have a mapping project that appears to still be accepting data from the public. They also have produced a booklet.

And the honeybee?

Honeybees will often nest in cavities in trees, so it is not uncommon to see them buzzing about trees. But, I think it is easy not to confuse the two…

And, as if honeybees do not have enough problems, it seems that there is a plant virus that may be killing them off:

A new study…may shed more light on the beepocalypse. Researchers at the USDA’s Agriculture Research Laboratory, as well as academics in the U.S. and China, have found evidence of a rapidly mutating plant pathogen—the tobacco ringspot virus (TRSV)—that seems to have jumped into honeybees, via the pollen bees collect as they fly from flower to flower.

Even more worrying is the fact that Varroa mites can also be infected which provides a double whammy for the honeybee.

Read more: Study Finds Plant Virus Could Cause Honeybee Colony Collapse Disorder | TIME.com http://science.time.com/2014/01/22/plant-virus-may-cause-colony-collapse-disorder-in-bees/#ixzz2t1VOw1HR

I am still a bit concerned about our honeybees, as well. I keep reading reports of other bees poking about the hive every time the weather gets a bit warm (like yesterday). Indeed, ours did this prior to Christmas. However, post-Christmas not a sign from either hive, if you don’t count the dead bees found in front of the hive every once in a while. Of course, this could be live bees housekeeping. And my husband did see live bees in the hive about a month ago when he last looked. I think we will have to take a peak, if the weather holds….


7 thoughts on “I have heard of bees in trees, but tree bees?

  1. I enjoyed this post. It inspired me to write my latest blog about bee keeping in Africa.

    Posted by lizard100 | February 11, 2014, 6:54 pm
  2. The tree bumblebee came to the UK from France and Dave Goulson (A Sting in the Tale) was apparently the first person to catch one in the UK in 2001. He was probably also one of the few people who could recognise the bee.

    Posted by philipstrange | February 13, 2014, 4:18 pm
    • Thanks for this info. It would seem that beekeeping associations here are getting more and more calls from people to collect these nests, with one region actually saying they had reached ‘pest proportions.’ I hope this will not be followed up by talk of invasion of ‘non-native’ species….

      Posted by mylatinnotebook | February 13, 2014, 4:44 pm
  3. The species name “hypnorum”, derives from the Greek Ὕπνος, the god of sleep, by an indirect route: due to the use of mosses to stuff pillows, the Latin hypnorum meant ‘of mosses’. Could this name have originally been given to this bee by entomologists because the bee likes to inhabit old birds’ nests,
    which may well be lined with moss ?

    Posted by Ned Reiter | June 30, 2015, 7:16 pm

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