BeeWalk at Colby Woodland Garden

A tree bumblebee enjoys Colby's flowers

Clare Flynn explains why the BeeWalk Survey is so important and the best places to see bumblebees at Colby Woodland Garden.

What is the BeeWalk?

Every year the Bumblebee Conservation Trust (BBCT) recruits lots of volunteers to take part in its BeeWalk Survey. The purpose of BeeWalk is to gain an understanding of the distribution and abundance of the UK’s remaining bumblebee species, all of which are vitally important wild pollinators.

Every month, from March to October, volunteers walk along a defined route in their local area, identifying and counting all the bumblebees which they see. At both a local and national level, this sort of information is crucial to inform decisions about future conservation of our precious pollinating insects.

Bumblebees at Colby Woodland Garden

2016 will be the third year for me to be BeeWalking at Colby Woodland Garden. The site provides a diverse and rich habitat for bees both in terms of flowers for pollen and nectar and in the provision of suitable nest sites. My walk takes me from the walled garden, past the tea-room and out into the wildflower meadow.

Early in the year, the walled garden provides pollen and nectar for queen bees emerging from hibernation and on my first BeeWalk this year I spotted queen buff-tailed bees (Bombus terrestris), early bumblebees (Bombus pratorum) and a relatively new bee to the UK, the tree bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum).

Clare BeeWalking at Colby
Clare taking part in the BeeWalk

In April, two more species appeared – the common carder bee (Bombus pascuorum) and the beautiful garden bumblebee (Bombus hortorum). This is quite a species list for so early in the year and is testament to the fantastic floral resource the Colby site provides, particularly in the sheltered walled garden. Heathers, lungwort and chionodoxa were particularly favoured by these hungry queen bees.

My next walk will be mid May so if you see me wandering with a net, a bug pot and some bee books, please do stop and say hello. I’ll be delighted to talk and maybe show you a beautiful bee or two.

You can find out more about BeeWalk on the Bumblebee Conservation Trust website.