8th Dec, 2016

Bees skipping hibernation due to unseasonable weather

Stratford Editorial 2nd Mar, 2016 Updated: 28th Oct, 2016

THE BUZZ of a bumblebee is something to be expected in the summer – but not in mid-winter!

The unseasonably mild weather has seen some species of bees skipping hibernation says Leamington-based Bumblebee Conservation Trust volunteer Emma Nelson.

The charity has received a number of calls about bees in Warwickshire taking advantage of the warmer weather seeking pollen rather than sleeping.

Emma told the Observer: “Imagine my surprise when just before Christmas, as my children and I were playing outside, a huge bee flew by and settled inside a tree in our garden.

“I recognised it was a bumblebee, and that it must be a Queen bee because of the size of it. I contacted the trust and it turns out that there have been many similar sightings of winter-active bumblebees, but not due to early emergence from hibernation – they’re actually skipping hibernation.”

Local gardens have been abuzz with two species of bee in particular – the Buff-tailed bumblebee and the Tree bumblebee.

Both species have been making the most of the limited flowers available and the lack of competition from other bees. This has lead them to rear another brood of bees, long after other nests have died. Usually it is only the Queen bee which survives the winter by hibernating.

And bees are not the only creatures breaking from the norm.

Hedgehogs have also become confused and have skipped hibernating, but they have not fared well due to the amount of rain.

Warwickshire Wildlife Trust hedgehog officer Simon Thompson said: “Some hedgehogs have also become confused by the unseasonal weather and they may not have fared well due to the amount of rain.

“This year we’ve seen a delay in some hedgehogs going into hibernation, as well as more disturbance to the hibernation process caused by fluctuating temperatures.

“Because it has been so wet this winter, hedgehogs haven’t been able to easily access their food, such as ground beetles and earthworms which have been underwater – so the hedgehogs wake and wander widely looking for food wasting their vital stores of energy. In the worst hit areas nests could even have been washed away in floodwaters.

“I am encouraging people to look at how they can make their gardens feed hedgehogs more sustainably – by leaving areas of the garden to go a little bit wild and planting to attract more insects, which is the hedgehogs natural diet.”

People are being asked to record any sightings of bees and hedgehogs to help with research.

Visit www.bwars.com to record a bee sighting and visit www.warwickshirewildlifetrust.org.uk/hedgehog-sighting to report the sighting of a hedgehog.