Last summer my family took a trip to the Hebrides including South Uist, Eriskay, Barra and then Tiree. I have been to the west coast of Scotland many times, and to Skye, but never to the outer isles before. Naturally I took my passion for bees with me (much to the annoyance of the rest of the clan who had to keep waiting while I inspected what might be buzzing at the road-side).
I was really keen to see the great yellow bumblebee (bombus distinguendus) which can only be found in that part of the UK. Here in the Hebrides, it makes its home in an extensive strip of floral meadow just back from the white sandy beaches called 'the machair' (pronounced 'macker'). We were very lucky and sighted several great yellows on our first day on South Uist but then sadly did not see any more for the rest of the trip. Tiree, in particular, is meant to be one of the best places to see them but it was mid-August and the end of their season, so we may have just missed them by the time we travelled there. They are a large and impressive bee. The ones we saw were probably a bit faded due to age so more light brown than yellow but stil very different to the black and white stripes I am used to of the more common bumblebees.
Still we enjoyed the machair and plentiful sightings of Moss Carder bees (bombus muscorum) which have truely orange heads on this location!
I had heard about the machair (below) but it really has to be seen to be appreciated; mile after mile of pink clover and various yellow daisies, in August, but apparenly it changes colour through the seasons. We intend to go back in June time to see in an earler colour mix and hopefully more Great Yellow Bumblebees too.