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Shrill carder bumblebee

(Bombus sylvarum)

A field of wildflowers. In the distance are three people walking.

This is a very scarce bumblebee which is found only in a few scattered, isolated populations in England and Wales.

Where to find
They are found in flower-rich areas of grassland, including sand dunes, drainage ditches, shingle beaches and chalk downs

A Shrill-carder bumblebee feeding on a pale purple flower.

Pieter Haringsma

Active period

Shrill carder bumblebee queens emerge from hibernation from April-May onwards.

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

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

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


All three castes (queen, worker and male) are similar. They have pale straw-coloured bands at the front and back of the thorax, with a black band of hair between the wing bases. The abdomen has similar pale straw hair with one or two narrow black bands in the middle, and a reddish orange tail.

Shrill carder bumblebees usually nest on or just below the surface of the ground amongst thick vegetation. Nests usually have 50 to 70 workers.

This species has a long tongue, and it often feeds on white dead-nettle, red bartsia, meadow vetchling, and bird’s foot trefoil.

Similar species and differences

The Common carder (Bombus pascuorum), Moss carder (Bombus muscorum), and Brown-banded carder (Bombus humilis) bumblebees are all more evenly ginger/yellow/brown, and none have a black band between the wing bases or a distinct red tail.

The Early bumblebee (Bombus pratorum) and male Red-tailed bumblebees (Bombus lapidarius) have a similar pattern, especially when faded, but both have bright, distinct yellow collar bands which contrast more with the black hair. Male Red-tailed bumblebees have no pale hairs on the abdomen.