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Garden bumblebee

(Bombus hortorum)

A Garden bumblebee feeding on a purple flower.
A smiling woman inspecting a borage plant.

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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 Garden bumblebee feeding on a purple thistle.

Pieter Haringsma

Active period

Garden bumblebee queens emerge from hibernation from April onwards.

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

This species can have another generation and be seen up to the end of September.

An identification illustration of a Garden bumblebee queen, worker and male, and the long face.

Description

All three castes (queen, worker and male) are similar, with yellow bands on the front and back of the thorax, one yellow band at the front of the abdomen, and a pure white tail.

Garden bumblebees nest mainly in old rodent nests and their nests have up to 150 workers.

This species has a very long face and long tongue which enables it to feed on deep flowers like foxgloves, although they will also feed on more open flowers.

Similar species and differences

The Heath bumblebee (Bombus jonellus) has a similar banding pattern and tail colour but has a shorter face and individuals of all castes are generally much smaller and fluffier. Male Heath bumblebees have yellow facial hair, and queens often have peach-coloured hairs fringing the pollen baskets on the hind legs (both black in Garden bumblebees). This species tends to be restricted more to acid-soil areas.

The Ruderal bumblebee (Bombus ruderatus) also has a very similar banding pattern with minor, subtle and variable differences. Generally, the Ruderal bumblebee has shorter, neater hair, and it is a much scarcer bumblebee with a much more southerly distribution.