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Identifying red-tailed bumblebees

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Joined 2012-06-14

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I do my beewalk in lancashire (LA6) along the canal, and in line with I think many people’s observations, I have gone from very few bumblebees (3 in May) to large numbers (94 in june).  Around this area there have been specific places, when the Knapweed was at its peak, where I saw around 100 Lapidarius in 15 minutes.  I am concerned on my walks about ‘missing’ the less common bumblebees because of having to do the ID too fast. I take pics when I can.  After looking at my photos this time I began to have a few doubts about my ID of redtailed bumblebees and therefore request your help.  According to the Field Guide my patch has B. Lapidarius, B. Monticola, B. Campestris, B. Pratorum, B. Sylvestris, but NO B. Rupestris, B. Ruderarius.
Because there were apparently so many B. Lapidarius workers around I identified these bumblebees below as Lapidarius males.  It seemed that the tails were not long enough for Monticola and were too long for Pratorum.  The tails are certainly not those of Sylvestris. There is some yellow facial hair although much of it is white (worn?).  The bee in photo3 appears not to be male given the pointed tail and viable pollen basket - and even the antennae.  And are there red hairs on the tibia? From other photos there does not appear to be a band on the abdomen.  Any thoughts welcome. It is partly the variability of many of these redtailed bees that adds to the difficulty.
Thank you
Allan

     

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Total Posts: 101

Joined 2012-05-31

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Hello Allan

apologies for the delay in replying.

You are absolutely correct!-all the bees in your photos are Male Red-tailed bumblebees (B lapidarius)
For exactly the reason you stated- the tail length (the number of segments covered by red) is intermediate between the short tail of Early bumblebees (B pratorum) and the long tails of Blaeberry bumblebees (B monticola).

Males of this species (B lapidarius) always have a yellow moustache, a distinctive feature of males of four common species.

The individual in photo 3 is still in fact a male. The tail may look pointy because of the angle but it does not possess a pollen basket. Males of social species don’t have a pollen basket but short hairs over the surface although there is still some bare cuticle ( so alot less hairy than the male cuckoos). This segment of the leg is much narrower than in females.

The red-tailed bees are indeed confusing but you are clearly getting to grips with them.

Elaine

     
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Total Posts: 17

Joined 2012-06-14

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Thank you Elaine. Need to do more work on pollen baskets, but meanwhile can send my beewalk report!
Allan