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Great Yellow bumblebee

(Bombus distinguendus)

A machair with colourful wildflowers.

Photo: Claire Wales

This is a very scarce bumblebee which is found only in the far northwest of the Scottish mainland, Orkney and some of the Hebridean islands.

Where to find
They are found in machair grasslands, wildflower meadows and occasionally nearby gardens.

A Great Yellow bumblebee feeding on a purple flower.

Great Yellow bumblebee (Bombus distinguendus) by Pieter Haringsma

Active period

Great Yellow 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 four month nesting period.

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

An identification illustration of a Great Yellow bumblebee queen, worker and male.


All three castes (queen, worker and male) are similar. The thorax has two bright yellow bands with a black band between them followed by a yellow abdomen with no distinct tail.

Great Yellow bumblebees often nest in old rodent holes and nests usually have between 50 and 80 workers.

This species has a long tongue, and it often feeds on vetches and bird’s foot trefoil.

Similar species and differences

The Common carder bumblebee (Bombus pascuorum) and Moss carder bumblebee (Bombus muscorum) have no black band on the thorax and are ginger-brown rather than yellow. The same is true of the Brown-banded carder (Bombus humilis) and this is a much more southerly species.

Field cuckoo bumblebee (Bombus campestris) males can be similar, with a yellow tail and black band between the wing bases, but this species also has a black band on the abdomen and their distribution ranges do not overlap.