Hooray – Le Tree Bee is Back!

The Tree Bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum), a widespread native of mainland Europe (hence Le Tree Bee), has been spotted once again in Northumberland National Park by the Authority’s  bee expert, Shaun Hackett, during a guided walk on Simonside for the Rothbury Walking Festival.

The European Tree Bee - Shaun Hackett

The European Tree Bee - Shaun Hackett

The Tree Bumblebee, which likes to nest in holes in trees, first arrived in Britain, probably from France, in July 2001 near the New Forest and made the 300 mile leap to the Borders via York two years ago.

While the York recorded sightings expanded rapidly over the last two years, no further sighting of it in Northumberland had been made – until Tuesday when it was spotted at the same location.

Le Tree Bee was first sighted at Simonside near Rothbury in 2007, which provides all the ingredients of its favourite habitat – upland heath and woodland, but it is commonly seen in parks and gardens in Europe and is expected to become widespread in Britain.

The European Tree Bee

The European Tree Bee

It is felt by experts that this species of bumblebee does not offer any threat to our native bees and should be a welcome new addition to our local fauna.

“This now should confirm that the Tree Bee is resident in the County and that it must also be in other places, yet to be spotted,” said Shaun. “The bee is quite distinctive in colour with a ginger-brown thorax, mainly black abdomen and white tail. It has a short tongue and needs flowers that allow it easy access to the nectar. It is particularly fond of Raspberry flowers but will also visit Rhododendron at this time of year.  ”

The Northumberland record will create great interest amongst Scottish entomologists who may already have a new bee over the border.

Northumberland National Park and the Bumblebee Conservation Trust are mapping the spread of Le Tree Bee and any sightings should be e-mailed to the Bumblebee Conservation Trust at treebee@bumblebeeconservation.org, including a digital photo (even a camera photo) to help verify the record.

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