Garden bumblebee Bombus hortorum


Best time to see: late Apr to end Aug

Key facts

One of our common bumblebees, widespread throughout Britain but not as numerous as other garden species

A long-tongued species, relying on a narrower range of flowers than others

Preferred nest sites are on or just under ground, and sometimes in inconvenient places such as under a bucket

Recognition

A largish bumblebee, the queen up to 20mm long, with a longer head and slimmer body than similar bees

All variants have three yellow bands, front and rear of the thorax plus one on the abdomen, with a white tail

Often its long tongue is extended as it approaches flowers with a deep throat such as foxglove or honeysuckle

Lifecycle

Queens emerge from hibernation in late April or early May and search for suitable nest sites

Colonies are small – 30 to 80 workers – and quite short-lived, sometimes lasting only until mid-July

In some years two nest cycles, i.e. queens from the first nest start a colony the same year rather than hibernating

  • Main photo

Photo © Tony Gunton