One of my favourite bumblebees and a regular visitor to my garden.
The queens and workers (and some males) have a white tail and a lemony stripe towards the front of the the thorax, and a lemony stripe across the abdomen. A large robust species with a very short tongue. Similar to Bombus terrestris, which can be very hard to distinguish between workers. Sizes queen 19 to 20mm, male 14 to 16mm, worker 11 to 17mm.
They nest in a variety of places, usually underground, and always under cover. Old rodents’ nests make good places. Often nests beneath timber floors of garden sheds. Mature nests are large, with over 200 workers. Towards the autumn the colony gradually dies out with the old queen, the new fertilised queen flown the nest ready to hibernate and to start over again the next spring. Not particularly fussy eaters. They also dine on the pollen and nectar of the more exotic garden species of flower. They are excellent pollinators.
The queens, looking for nesting sites, are one of the first bees to be seen in the spring. Found in many habitats, but usually in upland and moorland habitats. A regular garden species. Widespread and common, especially towards the north.
June 2006, rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2006.