Nature on our doorsteps: Hard work takes its toll in the end

By Rosaleen Dwyer

Rosaleen Dwyer is the County Heritage Officer at South Dublin County Council – every week she gives us an insight into the natural heritage around us and the beautiful biodiversity of the plants and creatures

In late spring and early summer when a worker bumblebee first emerges as a new adult, she looks ‘fresh’. Her wings are strong and perfectly shaped, and the colours of her body, tail, and stripes are all sharp and clean.

We use these clear patterns to distinguish between the different bumblebee species.

An old Common Carder Bumble Bee looking faded and grey. 1

An old Common Carder Bumble Bee, looking faded and grey

The bees certainly look their best at this time, before the stresses of their hectic working life begin to take its toll.

From early morning, the collection of pollen and nectar is constant throughout the season.

 They rarely stop, although occasionally one might be spotted sitting too long on a flower or a leaf, grabbing a very quick ‘power nap’ before flying off again.

As the season progresses and she begins to age, hard work and the effects of the weather begin to show.  Long exposure to sunlight bleaches her bright colours, causing her to look faded and grey. 

Young Common Carder Bumblebees are brightly coloured 1

Young Common Carder Bumblebees are brightly coloured

Towards the end of the season, it can therefore be harder to identify some species.

The wings also show wear and tear, becoming tattered by constantly brushing past flowers and leaves to reach nectar and pollen. 

Despite this, many of them still persevere, driven by the instinct to continue working until old age and exhaustion finally stops them.  

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