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Brown banded-carder bumblebee (Bombus humilis) by Dave Clark

Brown-banded carder bumblebee

(Bombus humilis)

A Brown-banded carder bumblebee feeding on a purple flower.
A Brown-banded carder bumblebee feeding on the purple flower of a thistle.

Jamie Buxton-Gould

This is a scarce bumblebee which is found only in coastal areas of England and Wales.

Where to find
They are found in flower rich grasslands.

Active period

Brown-banded carder bumblebee queens emerge from hibernation from April-May onwards.

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

This species can be seen up to the end of September.

An identification illustration of a Brown-banded carder bumblebee queen, worker and male.


All three castes (queen, worker and male) are similar. The thorax has ginger hair on top with paler yellow hair on the sides, under the wing bases. Hair on the abdomen is ginger-yellow, often (especially in queens) with a ginger band on the second abdominal section. These is a scattering of black hairs on the thorax around the wing bases, but none on the abdomen.

Brown-banded bumblebees usually nest on the surface of the ground amongst long grass or mossy vegetation. Nests usually have less than 100 workers.

This species has a long tongue, and it often feeds on red clover and vetches.

Similar species and differences

The Common carder bumblebee (Bombus pascuorum) has similar colouring but has longer, scruffier hair and has at least some black hairs on the abdomen.

The Moss carder bumblebee (Bombus muscorum) has similar colouring but has shorter, neater hair and never has black hairs, either on the abdomen or around the wing bases on the thorax.

The Shrill carder bumblebee (Bombus sylvarum) has a band of black hair between the wing bases on the thorax, and shows pale straw coloured hair bands rather than ginger. It also has a distinct orange-red tail.