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Early bumblebee

(Bombus pratorum)

An Early bumblebee preparing to land on a white spring flower.

Kate Jaconello

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).

An Early bumblebee male feeding on white-pink flowers. The fur has faded with age and exposure to the sun.

Gerald Schultz

Active period

Early 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 two month nesting period, in May and June.

This species can have another generation, particularly in the south of the UK, but numbers tail off through July.

An identification illustration of an Early bumblebee queen, worker and male.

Description

Queens and workers are similar, with one yellow band at the front of the thorax and another at the front of the abdomen, although this can be reduced or missing completely in workers. Males often have yellow hairs at the base of the thorax, and have yellow facial hair. All have a small, pale orange red tail.

Early bumblebees nest mainly in old rodent nests and are relatively small with up to 100 workers.

This species has a short tongue and feeds on a range of flowers such as blackberries, raspberries, and borage.

Similar species and differences

Red-tailed bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius) males don’t have a yellow abdominal band and females have no yellow bands at all.

The Bilberry bumblebee (Bombus monticola) has a much more extensive red tail extending over at least half of the abdomen.