congratulations on completing your first bee walk.
At this time of year, it is most likely that she was a queen.
I’m afraid that the photo does not show enough features to make a definitive identification of one of the rarer carder bees.
Unless you can be absolutely certain that it is a rare bumblebee then I would advise to mark it down as a Common carder bee- Bombus pascuorum.
It can be tricky to identify the rare carders when they overlap in distribution with the common carders. As you pointed out, they often have a completely blonde abdomen while the Common carder bee often has a mixture of ginger/black/blonde hairs on the abdomen to varying degrees.
You can find some information here. http://bumblebeeconservation.org/about-bees/identification/scarce/
May I ask what was the habitat type of the beewalk section that you spotted her on? The rarer carder bees are often only found on quite wildflower-rich areas and often don’t emerge as early in the year as the more common bees.
Hope this is some help. Good luck with the rest of the season.
Thank you for your reply.
Yes I was aware that the photo probably was no good. I am now making sure we have better pictures.
This carder did look quite different to the common carders I am seeing. I will hopefully see another and get some more useful images. Apart from the things already mentioned is there anything else I should note if I see another one like this to make sure I can identify it correctly (or at least have enough information for an expert to identify it)?
I have recorded her as a common carder as you suggested. I don’t want to record something rare without being certain.
There are flower rich areas around the survey site, but it was not flower rich at the time of that particular bee walk. We mainly had willow, blackthorn, primrose and lesser celandine in flower.
Are there any guidlines as to how big a female should be to record her as a queen? Should I be getting rough measurements?
We have a couple of copies of ‘The Field Guide to Bumblebees’ by Edwards and Jenner, the BBCT guide and the FSC guide. Are there any other helpful books/guides that you would recommend?
Thank you again for your help.
I know it can be really hard to get good photos of bumblebees. They don’t really like to sit still! Ideally if you can get a photo of the side of the bee, showing the colour of the abdomen, the hind leg and the colour of the thorax. And as sharp as possible. A good photo cannot make a definitive identification but it could give us a clue as to whether it is worth taking a sample.
Actually in the latest edition of the BBCT bumble bee guide, all three of the rarer carders- B humilis, B muscorum and B sylvarum are all found in south wales. Having said that I imagine their distribution is still quite localised and limited to quite good habitat. So it is possible for you to come across a rarer bumblebee. The problem is that the Common carder is extremely variable in the colour of the abdomen- it can range anywhere from blonde to ginger to black although in England it often has a black abdomen with a ginger tail. Not sure about the Welsh form!
Queen size is not definitive- it can vary. They are often bigger than workers though, and you might only come to realise this when the first workers come out of the nest to forage. I have just seen the first workers in Donegal and Derry this past weekend. They are much smaller but as the season progresses you can see quite large workers. Behaviour is really what gives the queens away. They are often nest searching early in spring (workers will never do this), they are often seen nectaring and not gathering pollen. Generally workers are seen with pollen in the pollen baskets unless they have just come out of the nest. As the season progresses and you are not sure of caste just mark them down as workers.
I think you are covered in the book department. Just keep practising and upload any photos to BeeWatch and you will get an identification back within a few days. That can help you to learn and get your eye in. Best of luck.
Thank you again Elaine for your reply.
It’s good to know I have the right reference materials.
I have got some better pics this month ;0)
The common carders I have seen here in S Wales have a black and white stripy abdomen/tail. But I can not class myself as terribly experienced, so others may have a different take. They are also tiny similar in size to the early, so I am certain this one was a queen if she was a common carder.
Queens - it it just me or are they harder to catch in the net when they are prospecting for nests - lol!
I am attending another bee ID course soon, I will try to ask about the carders (again!!) when I am there.