Nature on our doorsteps: Fuel for Bumblebees

By Rosaleen Dwyer

Rosaleen Dwyer is the County Heritage Officer at South Dublin County Council – every week she gives us an insight into the natural heritage around us and the beautiful biodiversity of the plants and creatures

Unlike Honeybee colonies which survive winter in their cosy hives with a good store of nutrient-rich honey to keep them going, Bumblebee colonies must start afresh every springtime.

Recent spells of warm springtime weather have encouraged hibernating Bumblebees Queens out of their winter resting sites.  

Sugar dissolved in water can help cold bumblebee queens regain some energy compressor

Sugar dissolved in water can help cold bumblebee queens regain some energy

On emerging, the Queen must search for pollen and nectar to build up her energy levels.  Dandelions are vital at this time. 

They supply plenty of pollen and nectar early in the season and they appear to grow everywhere!

The Queen also needs to find a suitable location as a nest site, such as an old abandoned mouse hole or under the roots of an old hedge. 

Before she lays her eggs, the Queen gathers enough pollen to form a little ‘pollen loaf’ to feed her first brood of young. 

Dandelions are a vital source of fuel for early bumblbees compressor

A Bumblebee Queen gathering pollen from a Dandelion, which are vital for Bumblebees at this time

She will also store a little pot of honey to keep herself going, because she will not leave the nest again. 

This food store must last until her first brood matures, when they then take over the food-gathering duties.

At this risky time, if cold and exhausted Queens are spotted resting for too long on a plant or along a path, a little feed of sugar dissolved in water can help fuel them up and set them on their way again.

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