Buck Bumble Stops By

Tree Bumblebee Bombus hypnorum

It was a hot sunny afternoon and I sat by the pond sipping some cider when this rather rude fellow came and sat down right beside me.

He immediately began sticking out his tongue, and I said, “Hey, Buck. Do you have to do that right here and right now?”

“I sure do,” he said, sticking out his tongue so far out of his head I thought it might drop out.

“But it is rather rude, don’t you think?” I replied, feeling somewhat repulsed and putting my can of cider down on the deck.

“No, not at all,” the bumblebee said, curling and wriggling his sticky tongue.

Tree Bumblebee Bombus hypnorum

Then something quite extraordinary happened. I thought I was on the set of another remake of The Thing when one tongue became three!

What the heck … I thought, and said. “Do you really, really have to do that, as well?”

The sun beat down, flies buzzed and a vibrant blue damselfly floated over the sparkling water of the pond to settle on the sword-like leaf of an Iris.

“I sure do,” he repeated, but it was hard to make out what he was saying with all that odd tongue business going on.

Tree Bumblebee Bombus hypnorum

“But is it really necessary? I am trying to have a nice sit down and enjoy a nice drink of scrumpy. It is rather off-putting, you know.”

“I sure do. I have to keep it in tip-top condition. I apologise, but grooming is very important to us bumblebees.”

Tree Bumblebee Bombus hypnorum

I mellowed a little, and picked up my can of cider and said, “I guess that’s fine then. Quite a neat trick the three in one thing.”

I dare not repeat what he said, but with that it buzzed off and left me there sitting on the deck pondering over what just happened.


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Tree Bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum), rear garden, Staffordshire, England. June 2017.

Tree Bumblebee

Bombus hypnorum

Tree Bumblebee Bombus hypnorum

Now this is one bumblebee I have seen a definate increase in visits to my garden in recent years.

The Tree Bumblebee is easily recognised by its gingery-brown thorax and black abdomen with a white tail. This is a short-tongued bumblebee. The queen may have some white hairs on her abdomen, and the male has white hairs on his face. Similar to the Common Carder Bee (Bombus pascuorum), except the Tree Bumblebee has a distinct white tail. Size Queen 18mm, worker 14mm, male 16mm.

Tree Bumblebee Bombus hypnorum

In its natural setting it nests in hollows of trees, but here it has taken to gardens, and particularly tit boxes.

Seen early in the year from February until July. Found in woodland, roadside verges, scrubby grasslands, parks and allotments. Often seen visiting fruit bearing plants, tree and shrubs, which make them important pollinators.

A relative newcomer to the British Isles, it was first recorded in Hampshire, England in 2001 and has steadily increased in numbers pushing northwards fringing the borders of Scotland. They have also spread rapidly eastwards, but have been slow in the west, but are now in South Wales. The bumblebee has the potential to spread throughout the whole country without any adverse affect on other species.


June 2014, rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2014. Nikon D3200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.