Common carder bee (Bombus pascuorum)

Common carder bumblebee (Bombus pascuorum). Photo credit: Joan Chaplin


Species distribution map from
Red: records 2000-present. Yellow: pre-2000 records.*

The only one of three all-ginger bumblebees to be a member of the ‘Big 7’ widespread and abundant species, it is found in a wide range of habitats across the UK, including gardens. The earliest of the carders to emerge in spring, and usually the latest-flying of the bumblebees from summer nests (Buff-tailed bumblebeesBombus terrestris, increasingly show winter-nesting behaviour). Males, workers and queens are similar in appearance, ginger-brown all over with no clearly-delineated tail. Females usually have creamy-white sides to the thorax while males are often yellower, with more obvious facial hair tufts.

Common carder bumblebees. Photo credits: Linda Peall (left), Ben Darvill (right).

Only three species (Common carder bee; Moss carder beeBombus muscorum; and Brown-banded carder beeBombus humilis) are all-ginger, and consequently the trio can be easily split off from other bumblebees. A few others (notably the Great yellow bumblebee (Bombus distinguendus) and the Field cuckoo bumblebee (Bombus campestris) can look unicolorous, but these are yellow, rather than ginger, and always have a dark bar between the wing bases.

Separating the three ginger carders can be considerably harder. Across much of the UK, the only species present is the Common carder bee, but in good habitat across northern Scotland and the southern coast the Moss carder bee is widespread (if often uncommon), while the Brown-banded carder bee is thinly spread across the south.

The Common carder bee has black hairs on the abdomen, unlike the two rarer species, and males can also be distinguished by their genital capsules and by the bulging antennal segments. The Channel Islands population are of the continental subspecies flavidus and show very few black abdominal hairs, sometimes only visible through a microscope when the abdomen is fully distended: at the other extreme, some mainland individuals have so many black hairs that they can appear to show a black band across the abdomen, but the ginger tail colour will still split the species from the Tree bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum).

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* This map displays the data currently publically available on the NBN Atlas website at Data have been contributed by a range of organisations: see here for the full list.  Please note that records from the national recording body (BWARS) are not yet available on the NBN so this map may appear incomplete.

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