Ireland’s Next Top Bumblebee!

Amid concerns about declines in Irish bees, one hardy bumblebee is bucking the trend and has just arrived in Ireland.  This month the Tree Bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum) was spotted by Michael O’Donnell on the 14th September in St. Stephen’s Green foraging on Rudbeckia.  We’ve had a series of unconfirmed sightings of this bee over the past few years, so we’re delighted that: a) it has finally been confirmed and we can welcome a new pollinator to our shores; b) that it was by one our excellent volunteers in the Bumblebee Monitoring Scheme and c) it was on one of the pollinator-friendly plants we’ve been recommending for urban plantings in the Pollinator Plan!

Photo by Michael O’Donnell, 14/09/2017

Arriving in southern England from France in 2001, the Tree Bumblebee has rapidly spread by over 50 km per year across Britain and has now finally crossed the Irish Sea. The Tree Bumblebee is a common and widespread species in continental Europe, and its rapid spread throughout Britain and now into Ireland is believed to be due to its unique approach to nesting.  Unlike most bumblebee species which make their nests at ground level, in long grass or in old abandoned rodent nests, Tree Bumblebees nest in holes in trees or other similar structures and are commonly found in empty bird boxes.  It also tends to specialise on early flowering trees such as Apple, Blackthorn, Hawthorn and Willow; floral resources that our other bumblebees do use but do not tend to specialise upon.

The All-Ireland Bumblebee Monitoring Scheme is now in a unique position worldwide in that we have an existing bumblebee monitoring scheme in place prior to the arrival of a new bumblebee!  Between our network of recorders and bumblebee monitors, we’ll be able to collectively draw a detailed picture of the spread of a new bumblebee within our pollinator communities and what impact this may or may not have.  So keep your eyes peeled for something that may initially look like a Common Carder Bumblebee (B. pascuorum), but with black hairs on it’s head and abdomen and a white tail.  It is commonly associated with parks and gardens, and is frequently encountered nesting in bird boxes or similar cavities relatively high off the ground, quite unlike our other species.

Finally, for anyone still wishing to find a ‘first’ for Ireland, there’s another bee we’d like you to look for too!


2017 Monitoring Scheme Workshops

Here is the current list of our bumblebee monitoring scheme workshops in 2017. These will cover all aspects of the monitoring scheme including species identification, use of the online data capture system and an afternoon outside putting the skills into practice. Hope to see you there!


Kerry: 8th April, 10am – 4pm. An Daingean, An Mhainister (old CBS), John Street. (Tomás Murray)

Booking: Máire Léime, Cáirde Éanlaithe Chorca Dhuibhne,

Kerry: 9th April, 10am – 4pm. Tralee Bay Wetlands Centre, Tralee. (Tomás Murray)

Booking: David McCormick, 066-7126700,

Tipperary: 22nd April, 10am – 4pm. St. Ailbe’s Community Hall, Emly. (Tomás Murray)

Booking: Sharon Heffernan, Tipperary Co. Council,

Tipperary: 23rd April, 10am – 4pm. Cloughjordan Heritage Centre. (Tomás Murray)

Booking: Gearoid O Foighil, Cloughjordan Community Development Committee,

Mayo: 6th May. 10am – 4pm. Castlebar, Turlough Community Centre. (Tomás Murray)

Booking: Deirdre Cunningham, Mayo Co. Council,

Mayo: 7th May. 10am – 4pm. Crossmolina, Enniscoe House. (Tomás Murray)

Booking: Deirdre Cunningham, Mayo Co. Council,

Carlow: 16th July, 10am – 4pm. Tinryland Parish Hall am, Kilbrannish pm. (Tomás Murray)

Booking: Andrew Power, BirdWatch Ireland Carlow Branch

Donegal: 12th August, 10am – 4pm. College Court, Ballybofey. (Tomás Murray)

Booking: Chris Ingram,

Antrim: 13th August, 10am – 4pm. Waterfoot, Glenariff. (Tomás Murray)

Booking: Brian Gaynor, Causeway Coast and Glens Heritage Trust,


2017 Annual Recorders’ Field Meeting 29/30th July

Photo: Conor Lawless

This year we will hold our annual field meeting for everyone who participates in the bumblebee and butterfly monitoring scheme in and around the beautiful Belmullet peninsula, Co. Mayo. Unlike previous annual recorders’ meetings, the Saturday 29th will be focussed on a single priority species: the Great Yellow Bumblebee (B. distinguendus). Locally, there are two BirdWatch Ireland reserves where the bee is currently in abundance but sadly there are only a handful of areas around the peninsula, north Clare and Sligo where populations of this endangered bee persist.

The goal of the workshop is to highlight the plight of this large charismatic bee and establish more transects targeting this species. On the day, we’ll have introductory talks on its biology and ecology in Ireland, followed by guided walks with Dave Suddaby on the BirdWatch Ireland reserves, and then a ‘team challenge’ to locate the bees at sites where it was known and sites where it may be but has yet to be recorded.

As always, you’re welcome to join us for a meal in the evening in the Talbot Hotel, Belmullet, and have the opportunity to socialise afterward. The following morning on Sunday 30th will then be a general recording day for both bumblebees and butterflies finishing up at lunchtime. We’ll provide a more detailed itinerary in the coming weeks.

The meeting is free to attend but spaces will be limited, so if you’d like to provisionally book your place please register here specifying which days (Saturday/Sunday) you’d like to attend and whether you’d like to join us for dinner on Saturday evening.  A detailed itinerary is available by clicking on the below:


2017 Our latest newsletter is available for download

We collectively spent 712 hours, walked 1,215 km and recorded 15,436 bumblebees last year, but how did our bumblebees fare in 2016? To find out, click on our latest newsletter below.

2017 February Newsletter
2017 February Newsletter


Past Bumblebee Monitoring Scheme Events