by Hayley Tompkins, 2017 Field Biologist, Bumble Bee Recovery
If you’ve read my earlier blog posts in this series, you’ll remember that I told you all I finally became a mom – a “bee mom” that is. I wish I could take all the credit for raising our beautiful bees, but unfortunately I’m only a part-time parent. Our amazing technician, Liam Graham, takes care of our bees on a full-time basis, feeding them every other day during the spring, summer and fall.
Finding enough yellow-banded bumble bee queens for our breeding program was a challenge this spring. Our team was constantly out surveying, only taking days off when it rained. This year, our team consisted of Sarah and myself, along with our spring interns Ryan Jeffery (far left) and Tiffani Harrison (left). By the end of our season, we were able to collect 30 yellow-banded bumble bee queens for our breeding program.
Although we found 30 queens by the end of the season, we often went days without locating a single yellow-banded bumble bee queen. Since we weren’t having much luck in our usual survey sites, we decided to head north to Thunder Bay. We unfortunately had very little success on our first day in Thunder Bay, so on day two we decided to survey a little to the east. To our shock and amazement, our team found over 20 yellow-banded bumble bee queens in just two days! Some of those queens made the 17-hour trip back down to Toronto with us, and joined the other queens already in the lab.
Each time we collected a queen for our breeding program, we gave her a unique name for the place that we found her. That means our bees ended up with some interesting names, including Patty Paddle, Nimby Nipigon, and Heidi Highview, among others. Our captive breeding program was a huge success this year – workers, males, and more than 10 new queens were produced by the queens collected in the spring. Every year, our captive breeding program continues to improve. Our biggest challenge currently is finding ways to successfully overwinter our new queens, wake them up next spring, and have them start colonies in the lab. Only time will tell if we are successful, so check back for updates on our captive colonies!