On a cold late November morning I'm watching a bumble bee foraging and gathering nectar from my garden cyclamen. The bee stays for some time flying from flower to flower, pollen sacks on its legs bulging.

This was probably one of the bee's final foraging forays because, after a very mild autumn, the weather suddenly turned extremely cold as winter arrived right on cue and that would no doubt have finally killed off the nest and its occupants, including workers, drones and the old queen.

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The fertilised new queen will then hibernate for the winter and create a new nest next spring, often building it and taking over a disused mouse hole or similar aperture, frequently in a hedge bank.

Bumble bee colonies are much smaller than the more complex colonies of honey bees, with up to 150 bees compared with 50,000 honey bees.

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Among many insects, bumble bees are vital for pollinating crops and flowers. Sadly though, their numbers are declining rapidly in the countryside, no doubt as a result of increasing use of pesticides and chemicals applied to crops. Without bees pollinating, the ecosystem would be in serious trouble.