Red-tailed Bumblebee – Bombus lapidarius

Bombus lapidarius (Linnaeus, 1758)

Length queens up to 22 mm, workers up to 16 mm.

With its all black coat apart from the bright red tail from where the English name originates, this is Britain’s most distinctive bee. A large, slender bee, the male has a yellow collar.

The nests are made in a variety of different places, usually in open areas underground, beneath large rocks, or in wall cavities. Large, mature nests may contain up to 150 workers. Young nests may be taken over by the cleptoparasitic bee Bombus rupestris. Feeds on nectar and pollen. It will sting if its nest is threatened. An important pollinator of oil-seed rape crops.

Queens emerge from hibernation fairly late compared to other species of bumblebee. Found in arable fields, gardens and chalk downland. Common and widespread.