Eusocial Bees?

This is a Buff Tailed Bumblebee which we spotted in early October… and we’re only now discovering how extraordinary they are!! So they’re a eusocial bee… yep eusocial that lives in colonies of several hundred. Unlike Honeybees the queen partners up with just one male.

We’d never come across the word eusocial until we started reading about Buff Tailed Bumblebees. Eusocial describes a species that co-operatively brings up its young as a group… that’s the parents and the rest of the colony. In fact the cycle of the Buff Tailed Bumblebee colony is designed so that the generations overlap to help with baby bee rearing… clever hey!

Buff Tailed Bumblebees build their nests under ground often in redundant mouse holes. Many bumblebees nest at ground level which is what makes them particularly vulnerable to being negatively impacted by the use of pesticides or weedkillers… they’re living at the level where pesticides and weedkillers do their stuff on anything alive in the vicinity.

This weekend we started reading Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring; a 60 year old book that predicts the collapse of wildlife populations through the widespread use of chemicals. It’s fair to say that reading this is pretty frightening in light of recent reports of the US government haulting tracking of honeybee numbers despite widespread colony collapse and the reports of fishery population collapses.

Over the past year we’ve been exploring new ways for us to talk about the bits of biodiversity that maybe aren’t cute. We’re often meeting people who are noticing fewer birds in their gardens and yet aren’t fans of insects… which is a great starting point for a discussion around how things are all connected.

We’re convinced that these big challenges we face require people at every level of society to respond… from government policy level people through to us people in neighbourhoods with garden spaces. Conversations might seem small and insignificant but it’s in conversation and though trusted relationships where things can change.

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