There are an amazing 25,000 species of Bee in the world and about 250 of these live in Britain. In Shetland we just have four resident bees with the occasional migrant.
Bees are social insects, with colonies of over 50,000 individuals.
In Shetland we have records of 9 Social bees
1. Honey Bee- Not known to occur naturally, although there are several hives kept on mainland shetland
2. Broken Banded Bumblebee - supposed to have occurred on Yell a long time ago
3. Northern White Tailed Bumblebee - common in gardens and crofting land. Seen April - September
4. Small Heath bumblebee - scarce on moorland on the mainland, Muckle Roe and Unst. It has a yellow tip rather than a white tip as found in other races.
5. Garden Bumblebee- Usually around gardens and crops, but widespread
6. Great Yellow Bumblebee - presumed extinct, old records from before 1960
7. Shetland Bumblebee - Common throughout the isles. The Shetland subspecies agricolae, May - October, It is much more colourful than its counterpart on mainland Britain (Moss Carder Bee). It has a bright orange thorax and a yellow abdomen.
8. Buff tailed Bumblebee- first discovered in 2012 and is now widespread throughout Shetland
9. Early Bumblebee - First found in 2018 but only found in Lerwick and Bressay. It has a bright orange tip. Some found a few days ago behind Clickimin
Now just 6 species of bee in Shetland. The first bees we see will be Queen bees, only mated female bumblebees survive the winters buried a few cm down in the earth. They emerge from hibernation only when the earth has been warmed by the sun
Bees are very important pollinators and they are responsible for at least one third of the food we eat. They are under attack from mites and pesticides
The Great Yellow Bumblebee is responsible for the healthy Machair plants in the Outer Hebrides, its a pity they don't survive here.
A good source of information is the book ` A Naturalist's Shetland' and an excellent leaflet
https://www.shetlandamenity.org/assets/files/bumblebee-leaflet-1.pdf report any sightings to Paul Harvey at Shetland Amenity Trust