Less common species of bumblebee found in the UK, 2, 1

Bombus soroeensis, the Broken-belted bumblebee

Bombus soroeensisBombus soroeensis

Prefers heathlands and uplands in the Hebrides, and calcareous grassland in southern England. In Scotland it can be seen high on the hills at 700 m or above. Is more frequent in Scotland, and declining in the south, not recorded in Ireland. Favourite flowers include white dead nettle, clovers, bramble, comfrey, heather, scabious, knapweed. In Scotland queens fly from June, workers from July, and males and new queens in September. All castes can be seen as late as October in good years. Nests underground in old mammal burrows. Successful nests can have up to 150 workers. Note the break in the yellow band on the abdomen (queen and worker, above left). The male (above right) has a thin line of ginger hairs between the white of the tail and black of the abdomen.

Body lengths, queen 16 mm, worker, 12 mm, male 13 mm. Forewing lengths queen 15 mm, worker 10 mm, male 12 mm.

Bombus distinguendus the Great yellow bumblebee

Bombus distinuendus

Restricted to coastal sites in Northern Scotland mainly on cliffs and sand dunes. Nests just below or on the ground surface. In the UK this species is listed as nationally scarce. In the U. K. queens fly from late May, workers from late June, and males and new queens in August.

Body lengths, queen 20 mm, worker 16 mm, male 15 mm. Long-tongued, hair length is medium and even, forewing lengths queen 18 mm, worker 12 mm, male 14 mm. Nests underground. Forages on bird's foot trefoils, clovers, vetches, knapweed and thistles.

Bombus muscorum, the Moss-carder bumblebee

Bombus muscorum

Uncommon, prefers moorland, fen and salt marshes. Tends to prefer damp locations. No black hairs on abdomen. It has short, dense very ginger hairs on the thorax, and slightly paler on the rest of the body. Workers and males have the same hair colour as the queen, but slightly longer. Population has declined, and it is now very rare and found on a few Hebridean islands.The preferred nest site is on or just below the ground. Nests are smallish with 40 - 120 workers. This bumblebee is said to be aggressive in defending its nest. Favourite flowers include clovers, vetches, thistles, teasel, bird's-foot trefoil, brambles and heathers. Workers and queens can often be seen foraging in really bad weather.

Body lengths, queen 18 mm, worker 14 mm, male 14 mm. Forewing length, queen 14 mm, worker 10 mm, male 12 mm.

Bombus humilis, the Brown-banded carder bumblebee

Bombus humilisBombus humilis worker

Restricted to southern England coastal and chalkland areas, coastal heaths, and flower-rich brownfield sites. Favourite flowers include vetches, clovers, dead nettle, honeysuckle, roses, thistles and teasel. It looks very similar to Bombus muscorum (above), no black hairs on abdomen. The UK status of this bumblebee is local. Queens are seen from May, workers and males from early June or even late May. There may be two generations in some places as workers and males can be seen right up until late September during good summers and in places where the foraging is good. The preferred nest site is on or just below ground and is small containing no more than 40 - 50 workers. The cuckoo bumblebee Bombus campestris invades its nest in other countries, and may do so in the U. K. too.

Body lengths, queen 17 mm, worker 13 mm, male 13 mm. Forewing lengths queen 13 mm, worker 10 mm, male 11 mm.

Bombus subterraneus the Short-haired bumblebee

Bombus subterraneusBombus subterraneus

Declared extinct in 2000. Rare, restricted to S. England on flower-rich heathland and grassland, however it flourishes in New Zealand where it was introduced in 1885, and is now found on the shingle margins of large lakes. Queen and workers above left, males above right. Nests below the surface. There were plans to re-introduce this species into Kent in England from New Zealand. This did not work out, but it was introduced from queens taken over from Scandinavia in 2012. The Scandinavian individuals are sometimes very black, with just a few white or yellow hairs marking where the bands of colour would be. Queens fly from May, and favourite flowers include dead nettle, red clover, honeysuckle, teasel, bramble, comfrey and viper's-bugloss. The nests are underground and at the peak have 75 - 100 workers.

Forewing lengths queen 17 mm, worker 11 mm, male 12 mm.

Bombus magnus, Northern white-tailed bumblebee

{Bombus lucorum}

Bombus magnus workers and queens resemble Bombus lucorum (above), but with a broader and longer band of yellow on the thorax. The yellow band on the abdomen can be paler or even cream coloured. This species is found in moorland, heathland and woods on higher ground, often above 600 m in Scotland. Also, in the north it can be found on coastal grassland.

Queen forewing length 17 mm. There do not seem to be small, early workers. All workers are fairly large. Queens appear from April. Bombus bohemicus is its cuckoo species.

Related pages

*Images taken from the excellent book Bumblebees, published by Pelagic Publishing.