Learning to Read the Urban Landscape

On a cold Sunday in March, a group of well-wrapped up bumblebee enthusiasts met up at the Water of Leith Conservation Trust Visitor Centre for the first BeeScene Bumblebee Survey of the season. This citizen science survey was organised by the Scottish Waterways Trust. The findings will be used for the Bumblebee Conservation Trust’s national Beewalk database, and will provide useful information on the health of the canal environment.

We walked down a mile-long stretch of the Union Canal in Edinburgh armed with a Guide to Bees of Britain, and under the expert guidance of Stephen and Willie we scanned the greenery on the side of the canal for signs of bumblebee life. At this time of year it is only likely that queen bumblebees would be seen. Each year only bumblebee queens survive into winter, and in early spring they come out of hibernation and collect pollen and nectar to feed a new brood of worker bees. We didn’t see any queens – perhaps it was too cold, but Anna (herbalist and forager at Floramedica) showed us a surprising variety of wild plants that will provide forage for bumblebees and other insects later in the year.