This blog coincides with the four-week anniversary of me officially joining the Blooms for Bees team as their expert verifier. My main role is to check your photos and convert them into verified sightings that Blooms for Bees can analyse and submit to the National Biodiversity Network. To date I’ve verified about one thousand records, but I need more, so keep sending them in and get your friends to join in with the project too.
The most important thing to stress is that we need photos where the bumblebee and plant can be recognised. It’s really great when you submit a correctly identified photo of a bee, but given that we check everything, it is not essential that you get it right. Around half of the pictures submitted are correctly identified and the other half are not, but this is nothing to be ashamed of, because some bumblebees are challenging, even for an expert. The critical thing is that we convert your photos into verified records, so we need you to submit as many as possible.
Patterns are already emerging. The Early Bumblebee dominates gardens in late spring but declines during June when the Buff-tailed Bumblebee becomes dominant. Both are short-tongued species that love blackberries, raspberries and chives. The Garden Bumblebee, with its much longer tongue is much less frequent and prefers deeper flowers such as foxgloves and sages.
We’ve had a few records of less common species, most notably a number of Heath Bumblebees from gardens in the Reading area, typically males on Cotoneaster in May. This is not usually considered a garden species. Can rural bumblebees become more regular garden species under certain circumstances, and can we encourage this through what we plant in our gardens? These are the sorts of questions that Blooms for Bees wants to address.
So keep sending us your photos, and do not worry too much about them being perfect, because even a blurry image can sometimes be identified, and the high resolution images of some smart phones can yield surprisingly clear bee images, even when they appear small and distant.