One of the first bees out in the year, queen Buff-tailed Bumblebees are a common sight in spring.
- Common name
- Buff-tailed Bumblebee
- Scientific name
- Bombus terrestris
- Bee group
- Species of bumblebee (genus Bombus)
- When to see it
- February – October
Queen Buff-tailed Bumblebees are a common sight in spring. This bumblebee has two yellow bands and a tawny or off-white tail.
One of the first bees to emerge from hibernation, queens are large and have tawny or ‘buff’ tails. Queens also have two yellow, often dark, bands – one behind the head and one across the abdomen. The tail can vary from off-white to tawny.
Workers are smaller than queens, with two yellow bands and often whiter tails. There is often a faint buff-coloured line at the top of the tail. Due to their white tails, workers are very difficult to separate from workers of White-tailed Bumblebees. Workers should therefore generally be grouped when recording.
Males also have two yellow bands and off-white tails. Typical of male bumblebees, male Buff-tailed Bumblebees have longer antennae and are fluffier in appearance. They also lack a shiny pollen basket.
Underground nesters, this bumblebee typically nests in old rodent burrows – terrestris meaning ‘of the earth’. It can be found nesting elsewhere, such as in compost heaps and under sheds. It is a bumblebee that readily adapts to urban settings.
Since the 1990s, winter-active Buff-tailed Bumblebees have been observed. Due to a combination of climate change and availability of winter garden plants in urban areas, queens may establish a winter nest rather than enter hibernation. During the winter months, look out for Buff-tailed Bumblebees on plants such as Mahonia and Winter Honeysuckle.
A common and widespread bumblebee in the region and across Britain, you can find the Buff-tailed Bumblebee in a wide variety of habitats.