Red-tailed cuckoo bumblebee (Bombus rupestris)

Red-tailed cuckoo bumblebee (Bombus rupestris). Photo credit: Derek Parker.


Species distribution map from
Red: records 2000-present. Yellow: pre-2000 records.*

A large red-tailed cuckoo bumblebee, with a big subquadrate head. Like all cuckoo bumblebees, this species does not collect pollen to feed offspring, but instead takes over nests of the Red-tailed bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius). Widespread but not particularly abundant across the south of the UK, the species has been increasing in abundance and spreading northwards in recent years.

Male Red-tailed cuckoo bumblebee (left), Faded Red-tailed cuckoo bumblebee (right). Photo credits: Ron Rock (left), Bill Temples (right).

Females are sparsely hairy and have very dark, almost black wings, unlike any similar species. Males have largely undarkened wings, but the indistinct greyish-yellow banding and lack of obvious yellow facial hair separates them from the Red-tailed bumblebee and Early bumblebee (Bombus pratorum). The male genital capsule is useful to check the ID, particularly of worn specimens.

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* This map displays the data currently publically available on the NBN Atlas website at Data have been contributed by a range of organisations: see here for the full list.  Please note that records from the national recording body (BWARS) are not yet available on the NBN so this map may appear incomplete.

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