Rob Coleman's picture

Mystery bumblebee

Observed: 27th June 2009 By: Rob ColemanInvertebrates expert

Can you help me ID this bee?

Species interactions

No interactions present.


the naturalist man's picture

Buff-tailed bumblebee

Excellent photographs. The extent of the yellow on the shoulders indicates it may be a male drone.

The white/buff tail indicates it is either a Garden, white-tailed or buff tailed bumblebee. However, the other two have a paler yellow and the yellow appears more extensive.

A very good guide to the eight most common bumblebees can be found on the Natural History Museum web site:

Graham Banwell

Visit the iSpot Yorkshire forum for information on events, issues and news relating to 'God's own country'

Martin Harvey's picture


Not sure about it being a male, the hind tibia seems to be flat and shiny, indicating the pollen basket of a worker.

As I understand it, current advice from the Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society is that it is not possible to safely distinguish workers of Bombus terrestris and B. lucorum, and the situation has been further confused by the discovery of Bombus cryptarum, which very similar to B. lucorum. The species are distinct in their DNA, but I don't think reliable external characters have been found yet.

Entomologist and biological recorder

the naturalist man's picture

Bumble bee

Hello Martin

I'll bow to your experience on this one. I rely on the various bumble bee guides out there which always give the impression you can tell the difference by the colour / patterning.

Graham Banwell

Visit the iSpot Yorkshire forum for information on events, issues and news relating to 'God's own country'

cmw's picture

B. terrestris male

If you look closely at the second photo, it's possible to count the antennal segments. This has 13, so is a male (females have 12). Male lucorum/cryptarum have yellow hairs on the face whereas male Bombus terrestris have only black facial hairs, so I'd go with male buff-tail.

eucera's picture

B. terrestris male

This is a very fresh B. terrestris male for the reasons stated by cmw above. Regarding the identification of workers, it is virtually impossible to be confident to species level when attempting to separate workers of B. terrestris, and the B. lucorum complex (B. lucorum ss, B. cryptarum amd B. magnus).

A lot of guides (if not most of them) use colour patterns for identification but colour patterns are notoriously variable in bumblebees. As a general rule, separation of B. terrestris from the B. lucorum complex should be based on males and queens.

Chairman BWARS

Rob Coleman's picture

Thanks for the helpful

Thanks for the helpful comments on this.

Rob Coleman