I do BeeWalk, a survey for the Bumblebee Conservation Trust involving a planned walk each month round a circuit, identifying and recording bumblebees. I thought I’d left it too late yesterday evening, but it was such a beautiful day, the hottest early May Bank Holiday on record, that I walked my route around 6pm, starting in Gore Lane.
The first part of the walk takes you past a hedgerow with gorse, facing south and is often the best spot. Tonight I heard a fairly high pitched bee in there, suggesting that it was something smaller than the B terrestris that has been all I’ve seen so far this year on this route. Sure enough, there were two small bumblebees nectaring in the gorse. At first sight I thought they were B hortorum – garden bumblebee – because of the twin yellow stripes and white tail.
However, the size seemed too small, not much bigger than 10mm or so, and the bands were not quite lemony yellow enough. I managed to pot one up and used the Slo-Mo feature on my iphone to get a slow motion video, which you can see below.
Note the face. It’s relatively short, not the very long face of hortorum and so I’m confident that this is B. jonellus – Heath Bumblebee. [Confirmation, via those more knowledgeable on Twitter later the same day, has reassured me!]
This is a good find as jonellus is not common everywhere, though we seem to do quite well for them in Exmouth. Earlier this year I found a queen struggling to survive in our garden and the post I did then shows the difference in face length. It’s a beautiful little bee, quite fluffy (longer-haired than hortorum) and compact and its clearly been working hard as the pollen baskets are overladen with pollen, mixed with nectar and squashed into orange-yellow balls to take back to the nest.
Let’s hope that these workers help to make that nest a success so that we have more of these lovely insects pollinating all our plants for us. With this in mind, I was delighted to see that the EU has recently banned the use of neonicotinoid pesticides; a significant step in helping bees and other pollinating insects. More jonellus would be great in my opinion.