While weeding and sorting out the rockery for winter I noticed a large bumblebee busy on the soil. It seemed to be excavating and I took a closer look.
This is a large female probably a new queen who will hibernate over the winter probably in loose soil.
It is a Red Tailed Bumblebee (Bombus Lapidarius)
They nest underground at the base of stone walls or under rocks. In these nests there can be 100-200 bees.
This bee was exhibiting some odd behaviour pulsating it’s body and cleaning itself with its legs. It became apparent that there were a number of hitchhikers aboard, mites.
These looked very big and I thought might be injuring the bee, on reading about this it seems they are usually harmless.
The mites cling on to the bee to be transported to different areas and in the nest they feed on wax and pollen and small insects.The mites only become harmful to the bee if there are too many and it is unable to fly.
I did see this bee fly but the mites looked as if they were not welcome guests. There is a short video ,it was a fascinating few minutes watching this bee.