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The Bumble Blog - Part 7

As we enjoy the last blast of summer there is already a nip in the air and the garden is slowing down.

The Lupins have finally run out of steam. The nepeta which was cut down weeks ago is now beginning its second flush of flowers as the lavender grinds to a halt. One plant which has not followed its expected timetable is a pretty white hellebore. This flowered in July last year, and has been flowering again all summer. Regular deadheading has kept most of the plants flowering, but the sweet peas, sown in March, have now given up.

While we reach for an extra layer to keep warm, most bumblebees have already begun hibernation. We think of hibernation as a behaviour associated with snow, ice and freezing temperatures, but some species of bumblebee enter hibernation as early as June, though most do so in July and August.

It is only the new queens which hibernate, taking with them the sperm from a single mating in the summer. The rest of the colony will die off by September. This is why there are few, if any, bumblebees around in the garden right now. It is not known for sure why they hibernate so early, but it is possibly to avoid predation, or succumbing to disease or parasites.

Only the strongest and fattest queens will survive the winter, which again stresses the importance of abundant pollen and nectar sources for them to fatten up, and to nourish them as they emerge starving in the early spring. Happily, now is the perfect time to be planting early flowering bulbs to feed them when they most need it. Anemones, crocus, fritillaries, narcissi and bluebells will all be most welcome.