Flight season: March to September with a peak coinciding with Ling heather flowering.


Flowers visited: Sallows and upland Willows in Spring. In the Summer: Clovers, Heather, Scabious and Thistles. Predominantly Heathers on moorland but will switch to Thyme on chalk grassland and coastal dunes.


Nesting preferences: Similar to the garden bumblebee, B. hortorum, but has a smaller nest of about 50 workers.

Status: Widespread and locally common across much of the UK. Declining in lowland Britain.


Parasites: The forest cuckoo bumblebee, Bombus sylvestris.

Similar species: As in B. hortorum, see here.

 

Description: The heath bumblebee looks extremely similar in patterning to the commoner garden bumblebee, Bombus hortorum. There are a couple of ways to tell the difference, one being the presence of any red hairs on the bee's pollen basket.  However, this method is unreliable as the hairs can fade or get worn off. The best way to tell is to look at the length of the face. If the malar gap (the distance between the bottom of the eye and the start of the mandibles) is less than one quarter of the length of the eye, then it is Bombus jonellus. If this all sounds quite complex don't worry! In the field the face is noticeably shorter and, once you get your eye in, they are fairly easy to identify.

 

Where to see them: Not very common in the valley but it is always worth catching B. hortorum bees just to check as I have found B. jonellus in fairly odd places including my garden in Bronygarth. Most common on the heather moorland on the valley tops.

Heath Bumblebee 

Bombus jonellus

The difference in face length between the garden bumblebee, Bombus hortorum, (L) and the heath bumblebee, Bombus jonellus (R).