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The early bumblebee


The early bumblebee or early-nesting bumblebee (Bombus pratorum) is a small bumblebee with a wide distribution across Europe. It is very commonly found in the UK and emerges to begin its colony cycle as soon as February which is earlier than most other bumblebees, hence its common name. The early bumblebee lives in colonies with a queen and worker castes. Unlike other queens that use pheremones to control the workers, queens of this species use aggressive behavior to maintain dominance.

The queen is black with a yellow collar, another yellow band on the first abdominal segment, and red colouration on the tail. The males have a wider yellow collar, yellow colouration on both abdominal segments, and also a red tail. The workers (females) are similar to the queen, but often with less yellow colouration; usually the abdominal, yellow band is more or less missing. The head of this little bumblebee is rounded, and the proboscis is short. Shortly after they emergence, young workers can be distinguished by a silvery color before quickly changing to the normal colors of the foraging bees.


The early bumblebee (male) Photo credit: Ivar Leidus

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



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