BBC Radio 4 Today Winter Bee Survey

Most bees are inactive throughout the winter, however in recent years we are seeing more winter days when bumblebees and honeybees are active, particularly in the South of England. This is most likely due to our warming climate, with daytime temperatures now regularly staying above 5 degrees Celcius. This survey, closed at midnight on 27th December 2019 and results were discussed on the Today Programme on Monday 30th December 2019 guest edited by Greta Thunberg, received 285 records totalling 1500 bees. With bees seen from Jersey to Thurso (3 bumblebees). 34 was the highest bumblebee count from Teignmouth. Winter active bumblebees is a recent phenomenon. Two species the Buff- & white-tailed bumblebees have started nesting in winter in the UK; the queens do this instead of hibernating. So workers can be seen through the winter gathering resources. Whether for the 2 of the 24 resident bumblebee species now staying active over the winter this is a successful way of weathering climate change remains to be seen. What is certain is that without greater connectivity of habitats bumblebees will not be able to move north.

This is why a habitat recovery network incorporating B-Lines is urgently needed for bumblebees and thousands of other species to be able to move through the countryside and respond to climate change. Otherwise species will become stranded & face extinction. This also raises questions about providing sufficient winter pollen sources for bees. Honeybees were also found to be very active in the survey, when they too would normally hibernate.

There is an existing bumblebee survey that can provide further interest: BeeWalk is a long-term bumblebee monitoring scheme run by the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, involving volunteers walking a fixed route once a month between March and October and counting the bumblebees that they see. This lets us understand how bumblebee populations are changing, before species are lost from areas of their current range.  To take part, visit.

Alternatively consider joining in with the Flower-Insect Timed Count (FIT Count) is run by the UK Pollinator Monitoring Scheme (PoMS) collecting records that contributes pollinator abundance data at a national scale (currently England, Wales, and Scotland). This simple citizen science survey collects data on the total number of insects that visit a particular flower. Anyone with a spare 10 minutes can volunteer and complete a FIT Count between April and September. To find out more information and get involved, you can download the materials, and watch the PoMS: Flower-Insect Timed Count video, from here.


Honeybees are less hairy and thinner than bumblebees


Bumblebees are hairy and fatter in appearance than Honeybees

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