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Find the first bumblebee of the spring

Bumblebee on yellow flower. Photo.
Short-haired bumblebee on Cowslip. Photo: Anna Persson

When the snow is gone, it does not take too long before a familiar spring sound reappears - the bumblebee buzz. Since bumblebees are well adapted to cold climates, many of the species are negatively affected by a warmer climate. Researchers at Lund University now ask for the public's help in reporting the first bumblebee queens of the spring, to be able to map how earlier springs affect bumblebees.

Pollinating insects are declining in number and species diversity worldwide due to land being used more intensively. A development that, for example, can affect our future food production since most wild plants and many crops need pollinators to develop seeds and fruits. Now that spring is arriving, researchers at Lund University hope that the public can contribute to increased knowledge about one of the common group of pollinators, the bumblebees.

Hungry queens the first ones out

The first bumblebees in the spring are always queens since they are the only bumblebees surviving the winter. The public is now encouraged to report when and where the first, hungry bumblebee queens are seen around Sweden. If you live in southern Sweden you can start looking out already in the beginning of March, further north a bit later.

­“We want to find out both when the bumblebees wake up in the spring in different parts of the country and if they choose to look for food and shelter in different types of environments, such as gardens, parks and nature. By finding out more about the bumblebees' activity in the spring, we hope to be able to understand how the increasingly earlier and warmer springs affect them”, says Anna Persson, researcher at the Centre for Environmental and Climate Science (CEC) at Lund University.

Search both within and outside the garden

According to Anna Persson, research has shown that gardens can be favorable environments for bumblebees since they often contain flowers over a long season. Observations of bumblebees from many different environments, such as nature areas, parks and gardens, can help researchers evaluate how important gardens actually are to bumblebees. Anna Persson emphasizes that flowering trees and shrubs, such as sallow, hawthorn and fruit trees are particularly interesting for a hungry bumblebee.

”You often discover a bumblebee queen on her low-key buzz, so you can use both your ears and eyes to find them. And if the bumblebee is sitting on a flower you can have quite a lot of time to study her, since she is busy collecting pollen and nectar.”

The unusual species wake up late

Because the researchers want the first bumblebees seen to be reported, it is mainly species that wake up in early spring that will be found. Many of the more unusual species wake up later in the spring or early summer. Even though Anna Persson does not want to favor any of the bumblebees, a certain rock star status is noticeable for some of the species.

“It would be great if some of the Norrland species that are linked to alpine environments appear in the reporting!"

Report the first bumblebee and read more about the survey (in Swedish) -