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The North East Bee Hunt

You can make a big difference for bees in 2020 by recording the species seen in your garden. Right across the North East, every record counts. Spread the word and join the North East Bee Hunt

Red Mason Bees © Louise Hislop

The North East Bee Hunt will return in 2021

Thank you so much to everyone who took part in the North East Bee Hunt, your records and observations made a real difference for bees this summer. The project will return in 2021 with new target species for you to discover.

Throughout the autumn and winter, you can share any outstanding records or new observations using the iRecord link below. These will help paint a clearer picture of bee distribution in the North East.

We hope you will join us again to explore the North East’s bees next year.

Join the North East Bee Hunt

Bees play an important role in the environment. To protect them, we need to know as much as we can about their distribution.

Many bees are under-recorded in the North East and for some, we know surprisingly little about their distribution. Gaps in our knowledge suggest that some nationally common species are few and far between in the North East, but is this really the case? Your records can help us find out!

Join us as we pilot a new project this spring and summer

Urban or rural, beginner or expert, naturalist or nature lover, everyone can help to increase our knowledge and awareness of bees in the North East. That’s why, this spring and summer, we’re asking you to get out and about in search of five distinctive bee species.

We’ve created a bee identification guide (PDF) to help you identify the target species. If you have sighted a different species of bumblebee, The Bumblebee Conservation Trust has a handy crib sheet (PDF) to help you identify common bumblebees.

It’s as simple as search, study, submit

Taking part in the NE Bee Hunt is simple. Locate one of five target species, take a photo and submit your record to the North East Bee Hunt portal on iRecord.

Submit your records

New to iRecord? Here’s what you need to know to get started.

Please note that only records submitted to the North East Bee Hunt iRecord activity will count towards the project. We cannot access records submitted elsewhere on the site.

Wish to submit your records by email? Download this straightforward form. Please return this, alongside any photos at

Every record counts! Whether you live in Northumberland, Tyneside, Durham or Teesside. No matter the size of your garden, we’d love you to get involved. Download the identification guide and join the North East Bee Hunt.

New to NHSN? Sign-up to the North East Bee Hunt

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Join the hunt for these five species

Click on the image to enlarge


Queens and workers have shiny hind legs that are used to collect pollen, called pollen baskets. Males do not collect pollen and lack these shiny hind legs. Males are produced later in the summer.

Tree Bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum)

Bombus hypnorum (female)

Bombus hypnorum (male)



Nesting Habit

Aerially e.g., bird boxes, holes in trees, roof eaves

Queen / Worker

  • Ginger thorax
  • Black abdomen
  • White tail
  • Workers resemble small queens


  • Similar to females
  • Ginger hairs often extend onto abdomen
  • Often conspicuous ginger tuft on head

Red-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius)

Bombus lapidarius (female)

Bombus lapidarius (male)



Nesting Habit

Usually underground e.g., old rodent burrows

Queen / Worker

  • Jet-black body with deep crimson tail
  • Workers resemble small queens


  • Yellow facial hair
  • Yellow collar behind head and weak midriff band
  • Red tail


Solitary Bees

The females of the following target species are very distinctive. However, males of solitary bees are less distinctive and more care and expertise is required.

Ashy Mining Bee (Andrena cineraria)

Andrena cineraria (female)

Andrena cineraria (male)


Late March-June

Nesting Habit

In the bare or sparsely vegetated ground, often in aggregations


  • Two ashy bands on thorax
  • Bluish-black abdomen
  • Black-haired hind legs


  • Smaller and less distinctive
  • Conspicuous tuft of ashy hairs on face
  • Ashy-haired thorax, with some ash hairs on the abdomen
  • Longer antennae

Tawny Mining Bee (Andrena fulva)

Andrena fulva (female)


Late March-June

Nesting Habit

In the ground (e.g lawn and short turf), often in aggregations


  • Dense fox-coloured coat
  • Black-haired head, side of thorax and legs


Difficult to distinguish from other male solitary bees

Red Mason Bee (Osmia bicornis)

Osmia bicornis, male (above) and female (below)


Late March-June

Nesting Habit

Aerial-nesting in holes of walls and timber, frequent occupier of garden bee hotels


  • Two facial horns
  • Light brown-haired thorax
  • Orange-haired abdomen


  • Smaller
  • Longer antennae
  • Conspicuous tuft of light hairs on face
  • Lack the facial horns of females

Confusion Species

Tawny Mining Bee is similarly coloured, but has a strong contrasting red and black look and nests in the ground.

Thank you for your interest in the North East Bee Hunt

If you would like to hear more about the project, please sign-up at the top of this page.

If you would like to learn more about bumblebees in the North East, please consider purchasing a digital copy of Bumblebees of North East England for only £4.00.