Gypsy cuckoo bumblebee (Bombus bohemicus)

Gypsy cuckoo bumblebee

Male Gypsy cuckoo bumblebee (Bombus bohemicus). Photo credit: Mike Anderson.

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

A widespread and common cuckoo bumblebee, particularly in the north. Like all cuckoo species, they do not collect pollen for their offspring (and so have no pollen baskets or worker caste), but instead take over the nests of the White-tailed bumblebee complex (White-tailed bumblebee, Bombus lucorum; Northern white-tailed bumblebee, Bombus magnus; Cryptic bumblebee, Bombus cryptarum). A variable species, it has darkened wings and always has a yellow collar on the thorax and a white tail with a small pale yellow patch on each side of the abdomen, at the front of the tail. Males often have a second yellow band at the rear of the thorax.

Gypsy cuckoo bumblebees. Photo credits: Jeffrey Lincoln (left), James Riall (right).

The Southern cuckoo bumblebee (Bombus vestalis) is very similar, but has more extensive yellow side-patches. Examination of the genital capsule is useful for accurate identification of males, which can also be determined by the ratio of the 3rd and 5th antennal segments (equally long in Gypsy cuckoos, 5th longer than 3rd in Southern cuckoos). Females can be identified by checking the degree of pitting on the underside of the tail (6th abdominal sternite) – heavily pitted and not shining in Southern cuckoos, smooth and shining in Gypsy cuckoos.

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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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