ZooSoc Takeover: Learn your A, Bee, Cs

White Tailed Bumblebees

1. How many yellow bands does your bee have on its thorax? 

  • 1 yellow band – go to question 2.
  • 2 yellow bands – go to question 4.

*Editor: if the bumblebee has a white tail but no yellow bands, it could be Bombus hypnorum, the Tree Bumblebee, a species not yet found in Ireland but expected to arrive soon. If found, take a photograph and submit your result to the National Biodiversity Data Centre.

2. Does the bee have a lemon yellow band and a clean white tail?

  • Yes – Bombus lucorum – the white-tailed bumblebee – see Figure 1.
  • No – go to question 3.
Figure 1: Bombus lucorum. Note: males of the species will have yellow hairs on their faces. Image credit: Rolling Harbour Galley.

3. Does the bee have an orange-yellow band and a buff tail?

  • Yes – Bombus terrestris – the buff-tailed bumblebee – see Figure 2.
  • No – Double check your bee and start again!
Figure 2: Bombus terrestris. Image credit: Nick Owens, BWARS.

It can be very difficult to distinguish between workers of B. lucorum and B. terrestris. If unsure record on the NBDC as Bombus lucorum aggregate

  1. Does your bee have a long or short face?
  • Long face – Bombus hortorum – the garden bumblebee – see Figure 3.
  • Short face – Bombus jonellus – the heath bumblebee – see Figure 4.
Figure 3: Bombus hortorum. Image credit: Louise Hislop, BWARS.
Figure 4: Bombus jonellus. Note: males of the species will have yellow hairs on their faces. Image credit: Unattributed, BWARS.

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