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Broken-belted bumblebee

(Bombus soroeensis)

A Broken-belted bumblebee feeding on a pink flower.
An upland landscape with a sloping field of long grass and wildflowers. In the background are rolling green hills and and woodlands.

Annie Ives

Status
This is a scarce bumblebee. It is found in the north and west of Scotland and in scattered populations in England and Wales.

Where to find
They are mostly associated with moorland, but can also be found on heathland and chalk grasslands.

A Broken-belted bumblebee feeding on a pink flower.

Active period

Broken-belted bumblebee queens emerge from hibernation from mid-May onwards.

Workers appear roughly 6 weeks after the nest is established, and new queens and males are produced towards the end of the two to four month nesting period.

This species has one nest per year but, due to queens emerging later in the late spring and early summer, can still be seen up to the end of September.

An identification illustration of a Broken-belted bumblebee queen, worker and male.

Description

All three castes (queen, worker and male) are similar, with one yellow band at the front of the thorax, one yellow band on the abdomen, and a white tail. In females in particular, the yellow abdominal band is crescent-shaped rather than rectangular, as it extends forwards onto the first abdominal segment on the sides of the bee, but not on the top. There are some black hairs in the centre top of the yellow abdominal band, giving the species its common name. However, this is less useful as an ID feature as it can be difficult to see. Queens and workers can have a fringe of orange or peach hairs above the tail and in males this can be more extensive. Males also have a very extensive collar band, like a mane.

Broken-belted bumblebees mainly nest in old rodent nests and usually have between 80 and 150 workers.

This species has a short tongue and it often feeds on open flowers such as brambles and scabious.

Similar species and differences

The White-tailed (Bombus lucorum) and Buff-tailed (Bombus terrestris) bumblebees have a similar tail colour and banding pattern, and often lose hair to leave a dark central patch in their abdominal bands. These abdominal bands do not extend forwards at the sides and are always rectangular .

The Early bumblebee (Bombus pratorum) also has a similar banding pattern but never has white in the tail.