Bumblebees are one of our nations most admired and easily recognised insects that we find in our gardens, due largely to their size and the buzzing sound that they make as they move from flower to flower in our glorius British summertime. You may be surprised to learn that in fact 2 species have become extinct wihin recent years and that with our ever expanding cities of paved landscaping and intensive agricultural practices, they are simply struggling to find somewhere to live and something to eat.

A large, gentle bumblebee

We are sometimes told that people have been stung by a bee, when asked to describe what it looked like, they are often unsure and assume that all bees are one and the same, when in fact here in the UK we have approximately 250 species of bee, 24 of those species are bumblebees, but you will likely have only ever seen the 8 most common, Then we have honeybees, solitary bees, wasps and many other black and yellow coloured flying insects that could all be mistaken or labelled as bees, my point is that not all bees sting, some bees dont even possess a sting, male bumblebees and honeybees are known as drones and dont have stings!

Bumblebees are much less aggressive than honeybees and generally they will not attack a human at all, unless their life is under threat. Don't wave your arms wildly in their presence, stand quietly and once they smell that you are not a flower and therefore contain no pollen, they will move gently away.

A large, gentle bumblebee on a mallow flower

Bumblebee identification

Bumblebee Identification apps available

For those interested in learning more about bumblebees, we highly recommend the following apps: Bumblebees of Britain & Ireland - NatureGuides Ltd., Blooms for Bees - Natural Apptitude, Great British Bee Count - Friends of the Earth Ltd. Bumblebee Apps

The buff-tailed bumblebee

buff-tailed bumblebee Photo credit: Ivar Leidus

The buff-tailed bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) is one of the most common bumblebee species in Europe. It is one of the main species used in greenhouse pollination, and as such can be found in many countries and areas. This is our largest bumblebee, and usually the first to emerge in spring. The queen is larger than the male drones and she has orange coloured hairs on her abdomen.

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