|Buff-tailed bumblebee queen|
Also emerging very early, normally at the end of February, is the tree bumblebee queen (Bombus hypnorum) which has a unique colour combination (orange, black and a white tail) which makes her easy to identify.
|Tree bumblebee queen|
|Early bumblebee queen|
|Red-tailed bumblebee queen|
|Garden bumblebee queen|
The bumblebee to emerge latest in spring, often at the end of March or in April, is normally the common carder bumblebee (Bombus pascuorum) which is yellowish or reddish-brown in colour.
There are 25 bumblebee species in the UK in total but the above are the most common ones you can see in your garden.
|Common carder bumblebee queen|
The queens you see emerging now are the new queens produced last year which have overwintered somewhere underground or in other sheltered places, protected from frost and rain. I once found a hibernating queen in my compost heap. I now try to leave my compost area alone in winter to provide a save place for wildlife to hibernate.
|White-tailed bumblebee queen|
|Buff-tailed queen visiting snowdrop flowers|
|Common carder bumblebee queen visiting pulmonaria flowers|
Don`t forget wild plants, if you can leave some white and red dead-nettles to flower in a corner of your garden you will make some bumblebees very happy!
|Red-tailed bumblebee visiting red dead-nettle flowers|
Once the bumblebee queens have stilled their hunger they will start to look for suitable places to build their nests. Different bumblebee species have different preferences, some look for old mice nests and other holes in the ground, others for tussocky grass. Tree bumblebees prefer bird nestboxes or cavities under roofs or in trees. Not all nests will be successful but there are always enough to provide the new generation of queens for next year.
|Red-tailed bumblebee queen drinking nectar from crocus flowers|
So why not look out for bumblebee queens this spring and see how many different species you can find? I will keep you updated what I find on my allotment.