Then I remembered an article I had read in a recent newsletter of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust. It said:
“Since the late 1980s in the south of England, buff-tailed bumblebees have started to appear throughout the year. Queens can be seen in November, and workers are quite common in December and January, collecting pollen from garden shrubs, particularly Mahonia spp. It seems that this species has adapted to the combination of exotic garden plants that provide flowers throughout the year together with increasingly mild winters, and has become more or less continuously brooded. More of the country can expect to see bumblebees at Christmas if the climate continues to warm as predicted.”
So, I wondered whether the bee in our garden could be a buff-tailed bumblebee queen. I decided to ask bumblebee expert Professor Dave Goulson of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust. He has just replied:
“It is, as you correctly identify, a queen terrestris. It is very late in the year to see one so far north (I heard of a worker in Nottingham last week). It seems that the winter terrestris that have been seen on the south coast for some years are spreading north – keep an eye out for workers on Mahonia in December/ January!”
We have a large Mahonia outside our kitchen window, so I shall be keeping a beady eye on it come December/January.