Quick guide to identify the species of British worker bumblebees

This is a quick identification guide to British worker bumblebees relying mainly on hair colour. It will work, but with less accuracy, for queens and males.

The worker caste of British bumblebees can be roughly divided into three groups, white tailed, red tailed and ginger haired.

Ginger haired bumblebees

Ginger haired bumblebees illustrated below (Bombus pascuorum, B. humilis, B. muscorum, B. hypnorum, B. distinguendus.)

Bombus pascuorum - there are always some black hairs mixed with the ginger hairs on the abdomen.

Bombus pascuorum

Bombus humilis - all ginger except for three black hairs around the base of each wing, and there is often a darker band of ginger on the abdomen.

Bombus humilis

Bombus muscorum - the thorax is always bright ginger, there are no black hairs, the abdomen is a lighter ginger colour.

Bombus muscorum

Bombus hypnorum - ginger thorax, black/ginger mixed abdomen with a white tail.

Bombus hypnorum mating, tree bumblebee mating

Bombus distinguendus - has a wide black band on the middle of her thorax, the rest of her hair is a light ginger.

Bombus distinguendus

White tailed bumblebees

The white tailed species illustrated (not to scale) below (Bombus lucorum, B. terrestris, B. soroeensis, B. hortorum, B. ruderatus, B. jonellus, and also Bombus hypnorum from the ginger section above.)

Bombus lucorum - the yellow tends to be lemon coloured and bright.

Bombus lucorum

Bombus terrestris - the yellow tends to be orangey and can look a little dirty. Queens have a buff to light brown tail.

Bombus terrestris

Bombus soroeensis - the yellow band on the abdomen is broken and curves up towards the thorax.

Bombus soroeensis

Bombus hortorum - has two yellow bands on the thorax.

Bombus hortorum

Bombus ruderatus - also has two yellow bands on her thorax, but they tend to be more orangey than B. hortorum. This bumblebee is rare, and has been recorded in Eastern England, from Wiltshire to Gloucestershire and Cambridgeshire to Essex.

Bombus ruderatus

Bombus jonellus - similar to hortorum but it has a short face; B. hortorum has a long face.

Bombus jonellus

Red tailed bumblebees

Red tailed species illustrated below (Bombus pratorum, B. lapidarius, B. ruderarius, B. monticola, B. sylvarum).

Bombus pratorum - small, the yellow band on the abdomen is broken or absent.

Bombus pratorum

Bombus lapidarius - all black except for the tail, the hairs fringing the pollen basket are black.

Bombus lapidarius

Bombus ruderarius same as B. lapidarius, but has a longer face and the hairs fringing the pollen basket are red.

Bombus ruderarius

Bombus monticola - two yellow bands on the thorax, most of the abdomen is red.

Bombus monticola

Bombus sylvarum - two yellow bands on the thorax, most of the abdomen is yellowish.

Bombus sylvarum

Related pages, Cuckoo bumblebees

North American species

N. American cuckoos

Is it a bumblebee?

Other bees1, 2

Looks like a bumblebee

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