Spring means bees are getting busy

Tree bumblebee on Cosmos by Alan Wright

While we're all sitting at home, wildlife is getting on with its spring preparations, and according to an expert, with bees in particular looking bigger and busier at this time of year.

According to our Plan Bee Project Officer, Ben Hargreaves, many bees look much bigger and busier during springtime.

Ben said: “With the slightly warmer and (much) calmer weather there has been a noted abundance of bees around.

“Some of the most commonly seen are queen bumblebees - the huge buff-tailed bumblebee, the slightly smaller tree bumblebee, the early bumblebee (smaller again) and the odd white-tailed bumblebee ‘types’.”

A white-tailed bumblebee feeding from a purple thistle-like plant

White-tailed bumblebee by Alan Wright

Many of these bees can be seen in your garden and, if you have seen really big bumblebees, they are likely to be queens, who will be visible now but likely to spend the rest of summer in the nest.

Looking further afield, Ben said:

Brockholes Nature Reserve has had records of small sallow mining bee which is not a common Lancashire species. Also, the more common generalist mining bees - buffish mining bee, Gwynne's mining bee and chocolate mining bee – might be seen in your garden. Gardens are also as likely as anywhere to observe tawny and ashy mining bees - the former is happy to nest on level ground so particularly favours lawns and borders.”

The brown and black sawfly species, Dolerus madidus, resting on a brown stem

Dolerus madidus sawfly by Phil Smith

Sawflies are also becoming active. Ben said:

“Many are 'small black jobs’ and all lack common names but there are some brightly coloured species recently recorded, for instance, the Dolerus madidus (pictured above), which was recorded in Cumbria last month.

“There are also some nice hoverflies in East Lancashire, including a good mining-bee mimic called Cheilosia grossa.”

Most people wouldn't realise the sheer variety of insects they have in their garden, and they can help our pollinators by providing them with flowers and herbs that attract them.

Ben, who ran the North West Plan Bee Project, is now part of a new bee survey, Wigan Bee Forever, which will look at increasing bee numbers in many areas including meadows and grasslands.

If you've spotted any bumblebees or solitary bees in your area, we'd love to hear about your sightings. Click one of the buttons below to chat to us on social media.