Chive talkin’ – the Bumblebees of Pelsall North Common

Last year, I spent quite a lot of time ‘Out on Pelsall’ – meaning Pelsall North Common (and before all the Pellsalians and Brownhillsians get uppity with me – the age old debate over Pelsall/Nest/Wood common, etc. is moot, as from a biological recording point of view, the Local Nature Reserve boundary is for ‘Pelsall North Common’.)  But I digress…

I was ‘Out on Pelsall’ because I spend the summer studying the aculeate hymenoptera (bees, wasps and ants) on site, but paying particular attention to a fab little bee called Andrena tarsata, the Tormentil Mining Bee – you’ll hear a lot more about the species in future blog posts!  I was fortunate to have the company of my good friend Bex, who is much better at bumbles than I am, and we recorded a handfull of species last year.  After site visits this week, we’ve actually taken the species list for Bumble Bees on site to 9!  (Before we started recoding there it was only 4!)

One of the most interesting things about Pelsall North Common is that it used to be an industrial site, a foundry, with associated cottages and cottage gardens.  As a result, there are lots of remnant cottage garden plants (and even vegetables!) ranging from apples & pears, to horseradish, asparagus and herbs including chives.

It was in one of the numerous patches of chives that we spent part of this afternoon, as in spite of not being a ‘proper’ plant, chives are just fantastic for bees (as the bees don’t apparently read the books that say which plants should be here and which shouldn’t, and regularly can be seen gorging themselves on invasive plants like Himalayan Balsam!).

So I thought I would share with you some photos I took today, and include our list of 9 species of bumble bees – we’re hoping we can still add a few more before the summer is out!

Red Tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius)
Hill Cuckoo Bee (Bombus rupestris)
Early Bumblebee (Bombus pratorum)
White Tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lucorum)
Four-coloured Cuckoo Bee (Bombus sylvestris)
Buff Tailed Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris)
Vestal Cuckoo Bee (Bombus vestalis)
Tree Bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum)
Common Carder Bee (Bombus pascuorum)

Bombus hypnorum, the Tree Bee – new to the UK in 2001, this species is the ‘Neapolitan Ice Cream Bee’ – three distinct colours, strawberry, chocolate & vanilla!
Bombus lucorum, the White-Tailed Bumblebee – look at her very bright, clean white tail, and more yellow (rather than oange) stripes.
A male Bombus sylvestris – Four-Coloured Cuckoo Bee – yellow, black, white, and if you look closely, a red tip to the tail (often tucked in!)
Bombus terrestris, a common species with two orange stripes and a dirty-white, buff or reddish tail. Queens are huge!
Bombus vestalis, showing the conspicuous yellow flashes on her sides, above the tail. Can be confused with the slightly scruffier Bombus bohemicus.

And its not just bumbles that love chives!  – We had a few other visitors too!

The lovely humble honey bee – beavering away to make honey. 🙂
A male Red Mason Bee (Osmia bicornis)
A Nomada bee, the only photo I could get without her bum in the air! She was really getting stuck in!
Trying to sneak in under the radar – a Bumblebee Mimic – actually a hovefly called Volucella bombylans!

8 Replies to “Chive talkin’ – the Bumblebees of Pelsall North Common”

  1. Thanks very much, both of you – the great thing about bees is that they sell themselves. Its ecology for girls – cute and fluffy! 😀 Shiny beetles are always good too!

  2. Hello Reremouse, can I use your photo of the lucorum bee on a chive flower for an activity I am doing in Cardiff, encouraging people to keep a pot of chives and record the bees that visit.
    Kind regards
    Barbara Brown Opal community scientist ( Lottery funded project)

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