London Bumblebees to Look Out For…



Brown-banded Carder bee (Bombus humilis) Photo By Magne Flåten – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Dear Readers, I received an interesting email from the Bumblebee Conservation Trust this morning, and it got me to thinking. There are a number of rare bumblebees about at this time of year, but because many of them look similar to commoner species it could be that I’m not noticing them. The bee above, the Brown-banded Carder Bee, is a case in point. It looks very similar to the Common Carder (Bombus pascuorum) that’s all over the garden, but it is even more ginger in colour, and the bands on the abdomen are much darker in colour. Plus, it apparently has a longer head :-). It’s found mostly on the south coast, but can be spotted in London.

Then there’s the Ruderal Bumblebee (Bombus ruderatus) and good luck with telling this one apart from the Garden Bumblebee (Bombus hortorum) unless you are lucky enough to spot the dark or intermediate forms – the dark form is completely black, and the intermediate form looks rather as if a ‘normal’ bumblebee had been dumped into some soot. So, if you see an all-black bumblebee, it’s probably a Ruderal Bumblebee.

And finally, how about this little chap/pess? This is the Red-shanked Carder Bee (Bombus ruderarius), which is described as a ‘rare and declining species’. You might possibly get them muddled up with the Red-tailed Bumblebee, but this latter species is a much bigger insect – carder bumblebees tend to be small and very active, as opposed to the larger bumblebees which often remind me of bomber aeroplanes. They have red ‘tails’ and also red hairs around the pollen baskets on their last set of legs (hence the common name) – you can just about see them in the photo below.

Red-shanked Carder Bee (Bombus ruderarius) Photo by By Ivar Leidus – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Anyhow, Readers, it looks like a good time for bee spotting of all kinds. Let me know if you’ve seen anything unusual! I am currently astonished at the sheer number of butterflies on my buddleia, but more about that tomorrow….




2 thoughts on “London Bumblebees to Look Out For…

  1. Rosie

    These are wonderful! Confirms the challenge of identification though. I really enjoyed the UK Field Studies Council’s online Identification of Bumblebees course…now all I have to do is remember what I learnt..


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