In April/May, the queens emerge from hibernation and build a nest out of grass and plant fibres, on the surface or slightly below ground level. The queen rears workers in wax cells within the nest, and these workers then rear the young on pollen and nectar. Each nest supports a small colony of workers and a queen. Workers are on the wing from May to late September and males from July to late September. The queens hibernate from October to April.
How to identify
The Shrill Carder Bee is one of the smaller members of the bumblebee family. It has a distinctive combination of markings; being grey-green in colour, with a single black band across the thorax, and two dark bands on the abdomen. The tip of the abdomen is pale orange – the orange tip is an important identification aid. The queens fly quickly and produce a high-pitched buzz. Although workers and males fly equally fast, they are far less noisy. A combination of rapid flight and distinctive colouration makes this species fairly easy to identify.
Where to find it
Sadly the Shrill Carder Bee is now only found on a handful of locations in the UK. These include large military ranges, unimproved pasture across the Somerset Levels and the Gwent Levels, the Castlemartin peninsula in Pembrokeshire, and brownfield sites along the Thames corridor. There is also an important population in Wales on the Glamorgan coast between Bridgend and Swansea.
When to find it
How can people help
The Shrill Carder Bee is one of several species of bee that are threatened in the UK. In 1998, the UK Biodiversity Action Plan Bumblebee Working Group was set up to discover more about the status of endangered bees. The Working Group carried out survey work to establish the numbers and ranges of the Shrill Carder Bee. They also published recommendations for restoring the bee’s populations. Overall, the conservation of most bumblebee species could be achieved by restoration of flower-rich unimproved meadows. Other methods include encouraging the practice of leaving field margins undisturbed and free from herbicide/pesticide treatment, the re-creation of flower-rich meadows. They also suggest modifying grazing patterns on grasslands, and erecting artificial nest boxes to encourage queen bees to start a colony. The Wildlife Trusts recognise the importance of healthy habitats to support all kinds of species, so are working closely with farmers, landowners and developers to promote wildlife-friendly practices. You can help too: encourage bees into your garden by providing nectar-rich flower borders and fruit trees. To find out more about gardening for wildlife, visit our Wild About Gardens website: a joint initiative with the RHS, there’s plenty of facts and tips to get you started.