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Common carder bumblebee

(Bombus pascuorum)

A close-up of a Common carder bumblebee feeding on a purple flower.
A Garden bumblebee (left) and Common carder bumblebee (right) feeding on a tower of pink flowers.

Huw Pennell

Status
This is one of the Big Eight common and widespread bumblebees.

Where to find
They are found in most habitats (gardens, parks, and the wider countryside).

A Common carder bumblebee feeding on a small white flower.

Pieter Haringsma

Active period

Common carder bumblebee queens emerge from hibernation from March 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 six month nesting period.

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

An identification illustration of a Common carder bumblebee queen, worker and male.

Description

All three castes (queen, worker and male) are similar, with a brown or ginger top to the thorax with beige sides, and an abdomen which usually has black and cream hairs mixed into a ginger-brown base. The overall appearance is usually of a warm brown abdomen, though sometimes it can appear striped. There are always some black hairs present, although the amount varies between individuals with some, particularly in Scotland, having a much paler appearance than others. There is no differentiation between the tail and the rest of the abdomen. The hair is usually long which gives a messier appearance compared to similar species.

Common carder bumblebees usually nest on the surface of the ground amongst long grass or mossy vegetation. Nests can have up to 150 workers.

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

Similar species and differences

The Tree bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum) has similar ginger brown hair on the thorax but has a black abdomen with a white tail. The sides of the thorax are black rather than the beige in the Common Carder.

The Moss carder (Bombus muscorum) and Brown-banded carder (Bombus humilis) bumblebees both have similar ginger colouring, but both tend to be brighter, with ginger hair on the thorax and yellow rather than beige/cream on the abdomen and sides of the thorax. Neither species ever has black hairs on the abdomen, which are always present in the Common Carder.

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.