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Red-shanked carder bumblebee

(Bombus ruderarius)

A Red-shanked carder bumblebee feeding on a white flower.
A woman standing in a field of wildflowers looking for bumblebees.

Tilly Hopkins

Status
This is a scarce bumblebee which is only found in certain areas or habitats. It is found in the south of England and Wales, and on Coll and Tiree in the Inner Hebrides in Scotland.

Where to find
They are mostly found in flower-rich grasslands.

A Red-shanked carder bumblebee holding onto a person's finger.

Photo: Red shanked carder bumblebee (Bombus ruderarius) by Richard Comont

Active period

Red-shanked carder 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 be seen up to the end of August.

An identification illustration of a Red-shanked carder bumblebee queen, worker and male.

Description

Queens and workers are both black (verging on very dark brown) with an orangey red tail. They also have red hairs fringing the pollen basket on their hind legs. Males have indistinct greyish-yellow bands front and back of the thorax, and can have a sprinkling of similar hairs on the black of the abdomen. Males have black faces and also have red hairs on the hind legs, although this is not a distinctive feature as male Red-tailed bumblebees also have red tibial hairs.

Red-shanked carder bumblebees often nest on the surface among long grass. Nests can vary in size and have between 20 and 100 workers.

This species has a medium tongue and feeds on a range of flowers such as red clover, ground ivy and knapweed.

Similar species and differences

Red-tailed bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius) males have yellow facial hair, and queens and workers have black hair on the hind legs.

The Early bumblebee (Bombus monticola) male has yellow facial hair.

The Red-tailed cuckoo bumblebee (Bombus rupestris) has very dark wings and no red hairs on the legs. They also have thinner, more rounded hind legs as they do not have pollen baskets. Males of these two species are very similar and can be hard to reliably separate without close examination of the individual bees.