In 1885, at Riccarton House and the Clark farm in Cashmere, fewer than one hundred Bumblebees were released into the wild by the Canterbury Acclimatisation Society. Acclimatisation Societies (which are worldwide) would release introduced species into colonies where they believe native fauna were lacking; or when the new pilgrims would miss seeing a familiar sight from their homeland around the place.
The Bumblebee – or the Humblebee as they were known then – first arrived in New Zealand in 1876. A shipment of 145 specimens arrived in Otago but only two survived the journey. Lovingly hand-raised and cared for, they were released into the wild in 1883. The species soon vanished.
Further shipments were ordered from England but again, all the specimens were dead on arrival – that is until 1885. Split into two groups of 45 and 48 bees, they were released at the aforementioned properties in Christchurch. They flourished and soon became unpopular with some as they easily destroyed crops and some flowering plants.
Here are some interesting facts:
* There are about 250 species of Bumblebee (from the Apidae Family).
* The Bumblebee first appeared in the written word in 1450.
* They are common in Australia and New Zealand but are considered endangered in Europe due to habitat loss and the use of pesticides.
* There are four species of Bumblebee is the South Island.
* The shape of the Bumblebee goes against aerodynamics and should not be able to fly. According to science the wing size and number of wing beats per minute are inadequate to get airborne.
* The buzz you can hear of any of the Bee species is not their wings but the vibration of their flight muscles.