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White-tailed Bumblebee

Bombus lucorum

Flight season: March to October, no signs of overwintering and queens generally appear later than the buff-tailed bumblebee Bombus terrestris.

Flowers visited: Very similar to B. terrestris and is also capable of nectar robbing.  

Nesting preferences: Underground in small rodent burrows like B. terrestris but with a slightly smaller colony size of around 200 bees.


Status: One of the commonest bumblebees in Britain.

Parasites: The bohemian cuckoo bumblebee Bombus bohemicus.


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

Description: The white-tailed bumblebee queen is distinguishable from the buff-taile queen, Bombus terrestris, by her pure white tail and decidedly lemon yellow bands. Again, the workers are much harder but they still seem to be more yellow and have a completely snow white tail when compared to the workers of the buff tailed bumblebee. The males, in the other hand, are much easier to distinguish as they have bright yellow hair on their faces which gives them an incredibly fluffy appearance!
With an average length of tongue, the white tailed bumblebee cannot forage from all flower species. Luckily, however, she has a trick up her six tiny sleeves. Along with buff tailed’s, these bees have well developed mandibles which they use to bite through the corolla tube of a flower of which they cannot reach the nectar, and stick their tongue in this new hole to drink their fill! This sneaky, underhand technique is bad news for the plant as it will not be pollinated because the bee has not come into contact with its reproductive organs!

Where to see them: Slightly less common than the buff tailed bumblebee but can still be found in most places in the valley. But be warned, the workers are very hard to separate from B. terrestris.

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