Author: Rachael Murray, Communications Officer, Eastern England Regional Office (EERO)

On a short walk during my lunch break last week, I was delighted to spot my first bumblebee of the season. Not only is it such a joy to watch their unfeasible flight, all big furry body and tiny wings, they are usually one of the first insects to appear in spring, reminding us that, just as our patience is wearing thin with this interminable chill in the air, warmer weather is on the way.

I’ve always found something inherently jolly about bumblebees. Their soft appearance evokes in me memories of cheerful, fuzzy characters from my childhood. Even their name has a child-like ring to it. 

Of all my early wildlife memories, bumblebees feature highly. I recall many a summer day spent outdoors playing mini conservationist, frequently stumbling across hungry bees and other insects in need of a pick me up. My garden adventures were often punctuated with a desperate race against time to find a jam jar lid, some tissue paper and a drop of sugary water to coax a tired bee back from the brink. The utter satisfaction I felt when I returned to my DIY bee feast to find that the creature had eaten its fill and taken flight to continue meandering amongst our flower beds, stuffing its knees with pollen along the way, is something that remains with me to this day. 

Cuckoo bumblebee. Credit: Grahame Madge (RSPB)

As an adult, I still consider myself a fully accredited insect paramedic, and as the days get warmer, I never leave the house without an old boiled sweet about my person, ready to be transformed into emergency nectar should the need arise!

With all their childhood charm, bumblebees make the perfect creatures to get youngsters inspired by wildlife. These sizeable, bright creatures live in large colonies, so can be very easy to spot and, best of all, they serve a very useful purpose in our gardens and across the wider countryside.

Many of our bee species are declining globally. And whilst it’s always bad news when wildlife is in trouble, bees are estimated to pollinate around a third of our food crops, including strawberries, tomatoes and more, so if the bees disappear, so does our food.

We can all help bees by growing flowers and shrubs in our gardens and parks that are full of nectar and pollen, to give them a rich feeding ground throughout the year.

Bees seem to have a thing for purple, attracted by carpets of aubretia, spotted deadnettle and delicate snake’s-head fritillary. In the summer, they love the vibrant purple pom poms of alliums and are never happier than when they’re collecting pollen from deep inside bell-shaped foxglove blooms. It helps to keep bees well fed right into autumn, so whilst you are out planting, why not pop in a few single-flowered dahlias and a clump of ivy to ensure the bee buffet continues into the latter end of the year?


To discover more ways to help bumblebees thrive, visit


Get inspired to garden for bumblebees and other wildlife


Nestled deep in the heart of Constable Country, the RSPB’s first dedicated wildlife garden is open for business again to provide you with all the inspiration you will need to transform your green patch into a wildlife oasis!


For those of you who haven’t yet paid a visit, the garden is situated in the beautiful and historic hamlet of Flatford, where John Constable used to paint. With flower borders full of nectar and pollen, a small wildflower meadow buzzing with life, a young apple orchard, woodland gardens and a kitchen garden, it is designed to teach and inspire people to help wildlife in their own gardens.


The RSPB will be holding frequent events and activities for adults and families at the garden, and hidden amongst the blooms you’ll find friendly staff and volunteers on hand to answer all your wildlife gardening questions!


Between 27 March and 3 November, the garden is open seven days a week, 10.30am to 4.30pm.


For more information visit


RSPB's Flatford Wildlife Garden Suffolk. Credit: Andy Hay (RSPB)