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24/09/2021

KILDARE WILDLIFE COLUMN: Tracking the flight of Lullymore bumblebees

Wildlife Watch with Nuala Madigan

KILDARE WILDLIFE COLUMN: Tracking the flight of Lullymore bumblebees

A male white-tailed bumblebee. Picture: paula farrell

With support from a Heritage Grant from Kildare County Council my colleague has been investigating if Lullymore West Bog would be a suitable location to begin bumblebee monitoring in 2022.

Lullymore West Bog is known for the diversity of butterflies found on the reserve including Europe’s most threatened, the Marsh Fritillary butterfly. While butterflies are important pollinators, bumblebees are far more efficient at the process.

Ireland has 21 different species of bumblebee. Six of these are referred to as cuckoo bumblebees, as they don’t build their own nest, instead taking advantage of another bumblebee’s work.

The white-tailed bumblebee (bumbus lucorum) is one of Ireland’s most common bumblebees. As its name suggests, both males and females have white tails. Both also have a yellow band on the thorax (which holds the wings and legs) and abdomen (the location of the heart, digestive system and other organs).

The males can be distinguished from the females because they also have a second thin yellow band at the base of the thorax, and a yellow face. This species of bumblebee can be found in many habitats, including your garden, and can be seen in flight from late January to early December each year.

The almost year-round flight period of this bumblebee highlights the importance of having a variety of spring, summer and autumn nectar sources in our local communities.

To protect themselves through December and January, they build a nest underground. To date, seven different bumblebee species have been identified on Lullymore West Bog. It is worth mentioning that while only a small sample of species have been identified on the reserve it does not mean there are not more species present.

The low numbers recorded may be due to surveyor inexperience or the weather this year.

Once the final species monitoring is completed later, a recommendation will be made whether to include the reserve within the National Biodiversity Data Centre bumblebee monitoring scheme or not.

If you would like help identifying local wildlife or indeed to share your images of local wildlife encountered to be used in a future Wildlife Watch, contact me on 045 860133 or bogs@ipcc.ie.

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