Bombus



BumblebeeID - find British species by colour pattern

5 southern local species

Five species are restricted to relatively few localities, primarily in the south of Britain. In general, they tend to be less abundant at each site, but may be the most abundant species at a few sites. Most bees encountered will not belong to this group. However, these species are often likely to occur together at the same sites.

Other species are:
(1)
widely distributed and often abundant
(2) restricted to few localities in the northwest
(3) extremely rare or extinct within Britain
(4) cuckoos in the nests of other bumblebees.

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B. ruderarius (SRP) back to interactive key restart key

queen/worker


male


male


male

Distinguishing similar species:
Unlike B. lapidarius and B. cullumanus, B. ruderarius queens and workers (1) have the long hairs of the pollen baskets (corbiculae) on the hind legs red, (2) have the head much longer than broad, and (3) have the mid basitarsi with the posterior angle with a spine (see Prys-Jones & Corbet, 1987, 1991); and males (1) have long antennae, and (2) can be distinguished by their genitalia.
Unlike the dark form of B. sylvarum, B. ruderarius queens and workers have abdominal segments 4 and 5 dull with punctures (see Løken, 1973); and males can be distinguished by their genitalia.
Unlike B. pomorum, B. ruderarius (1) have small body size, (2) have less extremely long heads (see Løken, 1973); and the males can be distinguished by their genitalia.



'Red-shanked Carder-bee'
(Sladen, 1912; Step, 1932)
'Red-shanked bumblebee'
(Benton, 2000)
'Red-shanked carder bee'

(BBCT)

taxonomy and nomenclature

A small species with a mid-length tongue, emerging in early spring, and nesting on the surface of the ground. In its nest structure, Sladen (1912) describes it as a 'pocket-making' 'carder bee'. Colonies are small and relatively mild tempered when disturbed.

Habitat Gardens, farmland, grassland, heathland, marshes, less common in woodland glades and edges.

British distribution
Species Recovery Programme

England, Wales, southern and western Scotland, absent from the Scilly Isles, Orkneys and Shetland. M. Edwards and E. Philp (in Edwards & Telfer, 2001) conclude that numbers of this species have declined greatly in recent years. Data from Alford (1980) are mapped on a 10 km grid (left) to show local patchiness and on a 50 km grid (right) to show changes in the regional pattern (dark blue - post 1960; light blue - pre 1960 only):

Worldwide distribution Europe east to the Caspian and in the Tien Shan. World distribution mapped on an equal-area grid (dark blue - specimens identified by PHW; light blue - literature records; white - expected distribution):

B. sylvarum (BAP) back to interactive key restart key

queen/worker
(pale form)

queen
(pale form)

queen/worker
(rare dark form)


male
(pale form)


male
(rare dark form)

The pale form of this species is unusual for the 'greenish' tint of the hair in fresh specimens (Sladen, 1912; Alford, 1975). The rare dark form has been recorded only a few times in Sussex (Mortimer, 1922).

 

Distinguishing similar species:
Fresh pale B. sylvarum are almost unmistakable in Britain with their 'greenish' yellow hair.
Unlike
pale males of B. ruderarius, pale males of B. sylvarum (1) have the pale bands more greenish grey than yellowish brown, (2) have distinct pale fringes at the posterior of the abdominal segments, and (3) can be distinguished by their genitalia.
Unlike
dark B. ruderarius, dark B. sylvarum queens and workers have abdominal segments 4 and 5 shiny with fewer punctures (see Løken, 1973); and males can be distinguished by their genitalia.
Unlike
B. lapidarius and B. cullumanus, dark B. sylvarum queens and workers have (1) a long face, and (2) a spine on the mid basitarsus (see Prys-Jones & Corbet, 1987, 1991); and males can be distinguished by their genitalia.



'Shrill Carder-bee'
(Sladen, 1912)
'Knapweed Carder-bee'
(Step, 1932)
'Shrill carder bee'
(Benton, 2000, BBCT)
taxonomy and nomenclature

A small species with a mid-length tongue, emerging in late spring, and nesting below the surface of the ground, sometimes with a long entrance tunnel, or on the surface of the ground. In its nest structure, Sladen (1912) describes it as a 'pocket-making' 'carder bee'. Colonies are small and relatively mild tempered when disturbed. Workers have a fast flight with a high pitched buzz.

Habitat Flower-rich heathland and tall grassland (Williams, 1988). Probably also formerly in flower-rich low-intensity farmland. Often co-occurs with other southern local species.

British distribution
Biodiversity Action Plan priority species

England and Wales, absent from Scotland and the Scilly Isles. It has become rarer in central England (see declines). Data from Alford (1980) are mapped on a 10 km grid (left) to show local patchiness and on a 50 km grid (right) to show changes in the regional pattern (dark blue - post 1960; light blue - pre 1960 only):

Worldwide distribution Europe east to the Ob. World distribution mapped on an equal-area grid (dark blue - specimens identified by PHW; light blue - literature records; white - expected distribution):

B. humilis (BAP) back to interactive key restart key

queen/worker

queen/worker
(rare dark form)
     


male

   

The rare dark form has many black hairs intermixed with the orange hairs on the thorax to appear dark red-brown.

 

Distinguishing similar species:
Unlike B. pascuorum and B. muscorum, B. humilis (1) are small with short even hair, (2) usually have at least a few black hairs above the wing bases (though sometimes completely absent) but not on the abdomen, (3) the hair at the front of abdominal segment 2 is much darker than on segment 4, (4) the hair on abdominal segment 1 is scarcely lighter than that on the sides of segment 3; and males can be distinguished by their genitalia.



'Brown-banded Carder-bee'
(Sladen, 1912; Step, 1932)
'Brown-banded carder bee'

(BBCT)

taxonomy and nomenclature

A small species with a mid-length tongue, emerging in late spring, and nesting on the surface of the ground. In its nest structure, Sladen (1912) describes it as a 'pocket-making' 'carder bee'. Colonies are small and relatively mild tempered when disturbed.

Habitat Flower-rich tall grassland and heathland, particularly near southern coasts (Williams, 1988; Edwards, 1999; Carvell, 2002). Probably also formerly in flower-rich low-intensity farmland. Prefers drier areas than the similarly-coloured B. muscorum (although the two co-occur at many southern coastal sites), but often co-occurs with other southern local species.

British distribution
Biodiversity Action Plan priority species

England and Wales, absent from most of Scotland and from the Scilly Isles. It has become rarer in central England (see declines). Data from Alford (1980) are mapped on a 10 km grid (left) to show local patchiness and on a 50 km grid (right) to show changes in the regional pattern (dark blue - post 1960; light blue - pre 1960 only):

Worldwide distribution Europe and Asia, including the eastern Tibetan plateau, to the Pacific. World distribution mapped on an equal-area grid (dark blue - specimens identified by PHW; light blue - literature records; white - expected distribution):

B. ruderatus (BAP) back to interactive key restart key

worker
(pale form)

worker
(pale form)

queen
(pale form)

queen
(intermediate)

queen/worker
(dark form)

male
(pale form)


male
(dark form)

The dark form is produced by colonies alongside pale-banded forms and may include many of the individuals (Sladen, 1912). Intermediately coloured queens are common (which may have the pale bands much narrowed and more brownish), but this is rare for workers and males. Despite some recent claims, B. ruderatus has long been and still is regarded as a species separate from B. hortorum by specialists in bumblebee taxonomy (references in Williams & Hernandez, 2000 [pdf]).

 

Distinguishing similar species:
Unlike B. hortorum, B. ruderatus (1) have the white hairs of the tail usually extending further forwards at the sides of the abdomen that in the middle, (2) usually have no yellow hairs at the front centre of abdominal segment 2, and (3) have the pale bands on the thorax of equal breadth in the middle (Williams & Hernandez, 2000 [pdf]).
Unlike B. jonellus, B. ruderatus (1) is very large, (2) has the head much longer than broad, and (3) queens and workers have a spine on the mid basitarsus (see Prys-Jones & Corbet, 1987, 1991).

Against other species, males can be distinguished by their genitalia.



'Large Garden Humble-bee'
(Sladen, 1912; Step, 1932)
'Ruderal bumblebee'

(BBCT)

taxonomy and nomenclature

A large species (especially the very large queens) with a long tongue, emerging in late spring, and nesting below the surface of the ground. In its nest structure, Sladen (1912) describes it as a 'pocket-making' 'pollen-primer' species. Colonies may be large.

Habitat Flower-rich marshes, tall grassland, and heathland (Williams, 1988). Probably also formerly in flower-rich low-intensity farmland. Often co-occurs with other southern local species.

British distribution
Biodiversity Action Plan priority species

England and Wales, absent from Scotland and the Scilly Isles. It has become rarer in central England (see declines). Data from Alford (1980) are mapped on a 10 km grid (left) to show local patchiness and on a 50 km grid (right) to show changes in the regional pattern (dark blue - post 1960; light blue - pre 1960 only):

Worldwide distribution Indigenous distribution in Europe, north Africa, Madeira and the Azores, east to the Urals. World distribution mapped on an equal-area grid (dark blue - specimens identified by PHW; light blue - literature records; white - expected distribution):

B. hypnorum back to interactive key restart key


queen/worker


male

Distinguishing similar species:
B. hypnorum is unmistakable in Britain with its combination of an orange-brown thorax and a white tail (see Goulson & Williams, 2001 [pdf]).
Against other species, males can be distinguished by their genitalia.



'Tree bumblebee'
(BBCT)

taxonomy and nomenclature

A medium-sized species with a short tongue, emerging in early spring, and often nesting above the surface of the ground in cavities (Løken, 1973). In its nest structure, it would be placed in Sladen's (1912) group of 'pollen-storer' species.

Habitat Gardens, farmland, woodland glades and edges. More strongly associated with areas inhabited by people than other bumblebees (Løken, 1973).

British distribution

First recorded from Britain in 2001 (Goulson & Williams, 2001 [pdf]). With its broad European distribution, it probably has the potential to spread throughout mainland Britain. Data from M. Edwards, D. Goulson, A. Martin, J. Osborne, B. Pinchen, S. Roberts (in litt., 2005) are mapped on a 10 km grid (left) to show local patchiness and on a 50 km grid (right) to show the regional pattern (dark blue):

Worldwide distribution Europe and Asia, including the Himalaya and Taiwan, to the Pacific. World distribution mapped on an equal-area grid (dark blue - specimens identified by PHW; light blue - literature records; white - expected distribution):

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