White-tailed bumblebee (Bombus lucorum)

White-tailed bumblebee

Queen White-tailed bumblebee (Bombus lucorum)

Species distribution map from https://nbnatlas.org
Red: records 2000-present. Yellow: pre-2000 records.*

One of the ‘Big 7’ widespread and abundant species, found in a wide range of habitats across the UK, and one of the typical black-and-yellow species. The species has a lemon-yellow collar at the front of the thorax and another bright yellow band in the middle of the abdomen, with a pure white tail: males have bright yellow facial hairs and are often extensively yellowed, particularly in the thorax.

White-tailed bumblebee female (left), and male (right). Photo credit: John Millard (right).

The White-tailed (Bombus lucorum) complex includes two other species, the Cryptic bumblebee (Bombus cryptarum) and the Northern white-tailed bumblebee (Bombus magnus), which are only reliably distinguished as queens (and potentially only by DNA testing). Records so far indicate that these species are most abundant in the north and west, with the true White-tailed bumblebee widespread throughout lowland Britain, but the difficulties of identification mean this may not be the full story. Queens of the Northern white-tailed bumblebee have the collar extended significantly further down the sides of the thorax than do White-tailed bumblebees, and queens of the Cryptic bumblebee have an s-shaped black mark through the yellow of the collar in front of the wing bases, although the legitimacy of this has been questioned and more research is required.

Workers are also practically indistinguishable from the Buff-tailed bumblebee (Bombus terrestris), although Buff-tailed bumblebees sometimes show yellow hairs in the tail, unlike the White-tailed bumblebee, therefore it is safest to record these as terrestris/lucorum. The yellow facial hair and tail colouration splits males and queens, respectively, from the equivalent castes of Buff-tailed bumblebees.

For more photos visit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/63075200@N07/sets/72157631522308509/
For more detailed information visit: http://www.bwars.com/bee/apidae%20%20sensu%20stricto/bombus-lucorum

* This map displays the data currently publically available on the NBN Atlas website at http://www.nbnatlas.org. 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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