Bombus Hypnorum:
The Tree Bee

Above:  Bombus hypnorum on geranium (Cranesbill)

Bombus Hypnorum (the Tree Bee) is a relatively new arrival in Britain from continental Europe where it is widespread. Sightings were first reported in 2001 in Hampshire and Wiltshire in the south of England. However, it is increasingly being recorded in other areas of the UK, from London, as far as Northumberland and throughout Wales.

Queens emerge from hibernation around February to March. By June, colonies will probably have produced males, and a second colony may even be produced.

Bombus hypnorum may be found in a variety of habitats, which range from gardens and allotments, to parks, woodlands, meadows and roadside verges if they are sufficiently abundant in flora. Tree bees tend to nest in holes, usually elevated from the ground – not surprising given the common name for this species! They hence prefer cavities in trees, but will even occupy an empty bird nest box. However, they may even occupy cavities in buildings and roofs.

I would like to thank Valerie Ferman, who sent me this lovely video of tree bees going in and out of a nest they had built in her compost heap. Valerie actually had 3 nests in her garden in Kent: 1 in the compost heap, 2 in the roof!

Valerie says:

    "This is one of the nests we had this year - this is the 2nd year the compost bin has been used by Tree Bumble Bees. We keep this part of the garden fairly natural, as apart from the bees, we have good bird life, newts, slow worms and stag beetles.

    This nest is fairly large with plenty of activity. Usually the bees have gone by the end of August. Our other nests are in the roof - and not so large. The bees are not at all aggressive, and I can open the top of the bin & observe them moving around."

How wonderful! Valerie's garden sounds like a haven for wildlife generally, not just bees!

Thank you Valerie for allowing me to feature this clip on!

Which flower should you include in your garden for Bombus hypnorum?

I am not aware of any studies in this area, but from personal observation, it seems the Tree Bee appears to forage on a wide range of flowers in gardens and parks.  Comfrey, borage, fruit trees, teasels, crocus, dandelion, knapweed, purple loosestrife, foxgloves, and many others may be visited by this species.  Visit my lists of plants for bees.

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