Wild Harris

Great Yellow Bumblebee

greatyellowbumblebee8221 L.Campbell.jpgGreat Yellow Bumblebee    (Photo: Laurie Campbell)

As the name suggests, this is a large bumblebee, but their nests are fairly small and they have less worker bees than some more common bumblebees.

Great Yellow Bumblebees were seen more often in Harris when crofts grew more crops and there were more wild flowers in the fields. When corn was grown, fields would be left fallow, uncultivated for a year or two between crops. This allowed the wild flowers to grow and in particular red and white clover would spread over the ground. This was good for the crofters because clover is one of those useful plants that makes and stores nitrogen in its roots, with the result that when the fields were ploughed again they would be fertile and would grow a better crop.

Clover, especially red clover is one of the main food plants for Great Yellow Bumblebees. They have a longer tongue than some bees and find it easy to feed on the deep tube like flowers of the clover. If you look carefully at the head of a clover flower you will see that it is made up of lots of thin tubes. At the base of these tubes there is a small amount of pollen and nectar, food for the bumblebees. If you watch them feeding for a while you’ll see how busy they are gathering food from each one in turn.

by Bill Neil