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Red-tailed Bumblebee

Bombus lapidarius

Flight season: March to October

Flowers visited: All sorts of flowers but workers are particularly partial to red clover and thistles.

Nesting preferences: Predominantly underground with up to 300 workers.

Status: Widespread and generally common across the UK.

Parasites: The cuckoo bumblebee Bombus rupestris.

Similar species: The cuckoo bee Bombus rupestris is very similar but has dark wings, hairy hind femora and a more tank like appearance overall. The rare Red-shanked Carder bee (Bombus ruderarius). B. ruderarius has longer and less-even hair and the hind legs are orange-y but this bee does not occur in the valley.


Description: A pretty bee with jet black hair and a scarlet tail. She is one of a few bees that incubate her eggs in the nest. In the early spring she will craft a wax lump and lay her eggs inside. She will now make a little hollow for herself on top of the wax and sit there, shivering continuously. This shivering will warm the eggs beneath her helping them develop into a healthy bunch of bees. This activity, however, requires a lot of energy and so she needs a lot of food. Unfortunately, she cannot leave the eggs to go foraging or else they will get too cold. Luckily she has a trick and she crafts a little pot and fills it with nectar before placing it within tongue distance so she can sip to keep her energy up while incubating.
The males of this species are quite striking bees as they have two yellow bands on the thorax, the front most extending over onto his face.

Where to see them: Can be found all over the valley, they seem to especially like thistles.

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