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White-tailed Bumblebee?

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Joined 2013-04-21

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Hi all,

I had a really good few days in the garden and think I’ve now seen White-tailed, Buff-tailed, Carder, Early and Red-tailed Bumblebees, all very beautiful and I’m a new fan!

Attached is one of a bee coming in to a plant I bought especially to attract bees and it is working wonders…they love it!

I think this is a White-tailed bumblebee but again I don’t know.

It worries me that the collar does not look especially lemon yellow though?

Does it then indicate Buff-tailed?

Any thoughts would be really appreciated.

Best wishes,

Richard.

     

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Total Posts: 271

Joined 2012-05-24

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Hello RichardB,

Another lovely photo from you - congratulations !

I suggest that we let Elaine give you a final say-so, but from my perspective the tail is so white; and the time of year so early; that it must be a White Tail queen Bombus lucorum. 
Also, she is unfolding her tongue (proboscis) in preparation to pushing it down the flower tube to harvest some nectar.

Once we get workers around it gets more difficult to separate the Buff tailed and the White tailed bees, but as far as I can work out we need to look for the presence or absence of a faint brown layer at the top of the white tail, where it merges into the dark fur.  Bees that have a white tail but also this brownish band are Buff Tails.  Those without it are White tailed !

I find Red Tailed bees very difficult to photograph, because the black fur is so very dense that it is difficult to see any detail.

Can we now set you the challenge of getting such excellent photos of B. hortorum (Garden Bumblebee) and the Tree Bumblebee ?

Yours       Clive

 

     
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Thanks very much Clive,

you’ve got so much more knowledge than me and I do appreciate and listen to your answers.

I saw a Red-tailed today and that was one beautiful Bumblebee….would love to photograph one.

Best wishes,

Richard.

     
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Joined 2013-01-10

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Hi Richard & Clive,
Your bumble certainly has a white tail but whether it is a B. lucorum??? I’m not sure.  Photos can be tricky…....and scale-wise not having seen the bumble in question, I had the impression that the tongue and face looked long…...like Bombus hortorum and perhaps the side angle of the photo meant that I couldn’t quite sort out whether there was just one yellow band on the abdomen, or in fact the yellow was on the rear of the thorax as well???? - also a Bombus hortorum clue.  I have already seen one B. hortorum queen so far in my VC55 garden.  What do you think Elaine?
urbanbumble

 

     
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Hi all,

thanks very much for helping me on my lack of id skills!!

I am starting to think this is a Garden Bumblebee?

The face looks quite long, as does the tongue?

I have attached another photo of the same bee seconds later.

It shows yellow banding both on the lower thorax and upper abdomen.

What do you think?

Best wishes,

Richard.

     

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Joined 2013-01-10

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Hi Richard,

Superb photo!  The yellow banding shows up quite clearly, so I think it is long-tongued B. hortorum.  Is the flower Erisymum Bowles Purple?  It has a really long flowering period and is loved by bumbles, so a great choice for gardens.  Don’t fret about “lack of skills”, we all had to start somewhere.  I think that we are all on a steep learning curve - some slightly further along than others.  As time goes by, there is always something new and fascinating to learn about bumbles.  Enjoy!
urbanbumble

     
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Hi Urbanbumble,

thanks so much for your responses to all my id questions…much appreciated.

Yes, I bought an Erysimum to go with my Scabious and now a Lavender (boy, do they love Lavender as well as Erysimum!!!).

Thanks again,

Richard.

     
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Total Posts: 271

Joined 2012-05-24

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Hi Richard and Urbanbumble,

Yes, well spotted Urbanbumble the second photo confirms at as a B. hortorum (Garden BB).

I spotted a B. hortorum queen sitting in a pretty blue Aquilegia at a Garden Centre (GC) last Thursday, so took several photos using my usual monopod to increase sharpness.  The bee was asleep, so easy to get a picture, but I didn’t want to over-alert another plant-looker nearby, so I was restricted in my viewing angle.
I’ve not downloaded the photos yet, but the first photo totally missed the abdomen yellow band, so it could have been a B. lucorum from that photo - despite my knowing it wasn’t.
A second photo from a different angle disclosed the pair of yellow rings at the back of the thorax and the front of the abdomen - confirming that it was a B. hortorum. 
But thinking about it, I must check the face shape, because unless it has a long face (like a horse) it might be a B. jonellus (Heath BB) which would be a real thrill !

(I have found B. jonellus a few miles form there a summer or two ago, but I think these queens are on the small side, which the one in the Aquilegia wasn’t !)

Also there was another B. hortorum queen trying to get nectar from a pretty little Pansy flower a few feet away at the GC while the first one was having a snooze !  And also one or two B. pascuorum queens about too (Common Carder), one working Lungwort, another also trying Pansies.

I’ll try to put some pictures into this little spiel in a few days time !

Yours     Clive

     
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Hi Clive,
Thanks for reminding me about the clues to look for, that split B. hortorum & B. jonellus.  I’m still waiting to see one of the latter - I wish!
Aquilegias are definitely good flowers to grow for bumbles -  I’ve even seen short-tongued B. terrestris workers sneakily “robbing” nectar from the flower spurs too.  Once you grow Aquilegias in your garden, they spread everywhere - lovely flowers, although I think that the “doubles” are more for the gardener’s benefit than the bumbles!
‘bye for now,
urbanbumble

     
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Joined 2012-05-31

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Well done all on resolving the ID to Bombus hortorum, Garden bumblebee.

To be honest, I thought the first photo was a White-tailed as well! But the second photo is unmistakable with the long face and three yellow bands.
Great photos!

At our training weekend I heard of a great tip for discriminating between Heath and Garden bumblebees. As well as Garden bbs having a much longer face, Heath bbs tend to have ginger hairs lining the pollen baskets. Thanks to Wendy for that tip! I don’t get Heath bbs where I am so will find it difficult to confirm.

best, elaine