Bombus in the bird box II

Yesterday my cousin rang me up to tell me she had a bee colony in a bird box in her garden, just like my neighbours did in early May. I went down there and it turned out to be a colony of red-tailed bumblebees (Bombus lapidarius). There is a nice picture of one on Insektenflug.de, but we also managed to get a couple of potato-quality mobile phone photos ourselves:

A female lands in the entrance to the bird box.
A female lands in the entrance to the bird box.
A top-down look inside the bird box. Red-tailed bumblebee colonies are typically small. At the bottom, a much larger male. The flash makes their tails look much more yellow than they are in reality.
A top-down look inside the bird box. Red-tailed bumblebee colonies are typically small. At the bottom, a much larger male. The flash makes their tails look much more yellow than they are in reality.

I can see why the bees have set up home there — her garden is overflowing with wildflowers, sources of water, and is beside open, undeveloped fields. Following the Bumblebee Conservation Trust's advice, she is planning to leave them alone until they leave the nest in a few months. They were really very unbothered by us, even after some gentle agitation, so I'm pretty confident they'll be no trouble.

Red-tailed bumblebees are really important pollinators. They have a relatively long proboscis, and only some species of bee have proboscises long enough to pollinate some plants. They also will forage at a distance of up to 1.5km, which I'm sure helps pollination too. So my cousin is doing the local ecosystem some good by keeping them around.

Back in the Apidae family, I've also received an welcome update from Dave with some good news:

Ⓓ and i checked the bees today and guess what. Both hives now have nice new queens. All really active and even working in the super.

Both queens look young with bright orange bodies. Lots of new brood and the colony has really settled down. On hive 4 the use of foundationless is so sucessful we may never bother with foundation again.