The beautiful Great Yellow Bumblebee was once numerous in flowery meadows throughout the UK but, as with many other species (including the Corncrake), changes in farming practices over the last 100 years have led to a drastic decline and populations are now confined to the Inner and Outer Hebrides, the far north of Scotland, and parts of Orkney. It is one of the rarest bumblebees, and is a Biodiversity Action Plan Priority Species.
Here on Easdale we have an abundance of all the things the Great Yellows like best, especially up on the plots: red clover (see illustration above), knapweed (like a puny thistle without the prickles) and vetch (a low growing leguminous plant). The queens choose holes under tussocky grass to make their nests, and we’ve plenty of that as well. They prefer to make their nests a polite distance apart, so it’s unlikely that we’ll have more than one or two colonies; but, as each colony has up to 50 workers, there could be 100 of them zooming about! So take a bit of time to rest in the sunshine amongst some red clover and vetch and listen for the BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.
The RSPB is apparently undertaking a survey of Great Yellow Bumblebee numbers, but we couldn’t find a link to it. If you do spot any individuals, contact the Bumblebee Conservation Trust – HERE – who have a very helpful factsheet on their website.