Bumblebees can now be spotted all year around, especially in Southern England where winter-flowering, non-native plants found in urban gardens provide the food they need to survive the cold months of our British winter.
Bumblebee colonies in Britain collapse at the end of the summer, when the old queen dies and its daughter queens go into hibernation before emerging to start their own nests in the following spring.
But since the 1990s, there is increasing evidence of a second generation of bees active during winter. This is likely due to several reasons. ‘Warmer winters are an important factor,’ says Dr Thomas Ings, an ecologist from Queen Mary, University of London. ‘But the availability of food throughout the winter, in the form of exotic, winter-flowering plants in gardens, is crucial.’