Hastings Country Park bumblebees

24th July 2011, Sunday

I have been recording numbers of bumblebees on timed walks at Hastings Country Park this summer, comparing numbers to Dungeness.  Not surprisingly, given the different habitat, the responses of bumblebees to the spring drought have been totally different.  For instance whilst at Dungeness the red tailed bumblebee Bombus lapidarius has been unusually scarce this summer at Hastings it has been abundant.  Back in May both species were equally common on timed walks in pasture managed for bumblebees, however by this month there were three times as many females of this species at Hastings.  Males (sporting an additional yellow band at the front of the thorax) can be seen at both sites now.

red tailed bumblebee male

Numbers of the widespread bumblebee species have benefitted from some excellent conservation work at this site.  The fields are being managed to increased the density of wild flowers.  These include extensive patches of favoured bumblebee food plants such as red clover Trifolium repens and meadow vetchling Lathyrus pratensis

Red clover  Hastings Cliffs

Meadow vetchling  Hastings Cliffs

However the highest concentrations of red-tailed bumblebee found this year were on the field margin shown below, sown with game cover crops such as fodder radish and a yellow crucifer (mustard?).   Back in May a margin sown with these plants attracted phenomenal numbers of this species, despite the fact that their flowering season was coming to an end.  The density of bees found on this strip was higher than on any other flower resource I have recorded so far this year, with seven times the numbers of red-tailed bumblebees found on nearby fields and red clover field margins. 

Field margin with fodder radish

Workers of white tailed/buff tailed bumblebees (B. lucorum and B. terestris) were also common on this field margin, whilst, predictably, the small garden bumblebee B. hortorum) and common carder bee (B. pascuorum) were restricted to the adjacent strip of red clover that these species prefer as a source of pollen.