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Early Bumblebee

Bombus pratorum

Flight season: March to October and very rarely winter active.

Flowers visited: Spring queens visit a variety of flowers, summer queens and workers like Raspberry and Brambles. Autumn queens like Devil’s Bit Scabious. Workers like a range of flowers as they can push their narrow head into the flower to reach the nectar and will also nectar rob Comfreys.

Nesting preferences: A wide variety of locations from underground to in holes in trees. Fairly small with only about 100 workers.


Status: One of the commonest and most widespread bumblebees in the UK

Parasites: The cuckoo bumblebee Bombus sylvestris.


Similar species: Vaguely similar to Bombus monticola but the red patch on B. monticola’s abdomen extends much further up towards the thorax.

Description: Waking up and going to bed early (especially in the North where they have just one generation and the new queens can start hibernating in June) the Early Bumblebee is a sweet little creature. Our smallest bumblebee, the queen has two yellow bands on her thorax and her tail is tipped with red. The workers generally seem to be lacking the middle thoracic band (so just yellow at the front of the bee and red at the back) but larger workers still have the three bands). The males are the male bumblebees which emerge earliest in the year (as early as mid May) and are incredibly fluffy creatures. His coat is much longer than that of his mum and sisters and he has a wonderfully yellow face making him a striking and easily recognisable bee in the field.


Where to see them: Quite common across the valley and can be readily seen, especially in the springtime. The males are especially recognisable looking like tiny suns.

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