There’s a concerted effort to try and stop foreign species of flora and fauna from entering Britain through the importation of various goods. However, there are always going to be some that slip through the net, which then trigger alarm bells, particularly when our native ecology could be at risk from the invasive species.
Occasionally though, the appearance of a foreign species will actually turn out to be beneficial to us and it becomes a welcome addition to the country’s biodiversity.
This has been the case with a European bumblebee species, the Tree Bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum),
First appearing in Britain during 2001, this ginger, black and white-tailed bumblebee rapidly adapted to Britain’s climate and natural habitats, and over the following two decades became widespread, to the point where it is now abundant through most of England and Wales.
As its name suggests, the Tree Bumblebee, is primarily a species that prefers woodland habitats, where it is an important pollinator of wildflowers. However, in Britain, it has also adapted well in suburban areas, where it often builds nests and establishes colonies high up in holes on buildings and trees. It is also commonly found nesting in bird boxes too.
As with most bumblebee species though, the Tree Bumblebee colonies are relatively short-lived, lasting for only a couple of months, before the new queen bumblebees emerge and disperse whilst the founder queen and the colony’s worker bees die. Smaller stingless males will also emerge with the new queens, but instead of dispersing, these tend to swarm around the nest entrance, enticing new queens from other nests to fly over and mate. Often the sight of these swarming male bumblebees causes concern, but these males are completely harmless.
So, despite being a foreign invasive species, the Tree Bumblebees should be welcomed into our gardens where their excellent pollinator ability will be of great benefit to our home-grown fruits and vegetables.