Back home to The Crib…..

The first bumblebees of spring are always a delight.  These queens have spent the harsh winter months under the ground, usually in a small chamber which they excavate in the autumn, and they are awoken by a rise in temperature.  That such a small creature can remain safe through snow and ice in this way is a miracle in itself, but to emerge unscathed and looking ‘brand-new’ is even more surprising.  We are used to the tatty nature of the small tortoiseshell and peacock butterflies that appear at this time, with torn wings and faded colours, but I always think that the first queen bumblebees look like they are back from a holiday in a nice warm climate!  The drone of a queen always makes me look up and marvel at the fact that they can fly at all.  At this time of year in my garden, there isn’t really a great deal for them in terms of nectar or pollen – only dandelions, but these serve the purpose well enough.  Her next task, after replenishing her energy stores, will be to seek out an old mouse nest to lay her eggs. 

About wildlifegardening

Jenny Steel was a Plant Ecologist at Oxford University before becoming a writer. She has more than 20 years experience of writing about and teaching ecology, natural history and wildlife gardening. She is also a photographer, journalist and former plant nursery owner, and a lecturer and tutor in adult education. She has appeared on a variety of radio and television programmes including Gardener’s World with Alan Titchmarsh, and she presented a series of items on the BBC 2 gardening show, How Does Your Garden Grow. She has worked with and written for a variety of organisations including the Royal Horticultural Society, Natural England, Atropos, Ernest Charles, the Adult Residential Colleges Association (ARCA), Haiths, Usborne Books, Complete Gardens, Oxfordshire County Council, the charity Growing Native and several of the Wildlife Trusts. She is also the Garden Bird Guru for the wild bird food company JustAddBirds of which she was a co-founder. The Emmy Award winning film company Panache Productions are currently making a film about her wildlife garden in South Shropshire. She has written 10 books on wildlife gardening. Her website can be found at and her bird food company at
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