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Pollen baskets lacking


Total Posts: 45

Joined 2012-08-24


Hello, I am new to the forum and am thrilled to bits to find a forum that allows me to indulge in my love of all things bumble! I spend many hours in my garden photographing bumblebees. I have sooooo many questions smile

First one .... we have several species of bee visiting our small garden, predominantly terrestris/leucorum I think. I can’t see any pollen baskets on these bees, they can’t all be males (I can ID the leucorum males) or cuckoo bees can they? The honey bees that visit the garden have loaded baskets…why can’t I see any pollen baskets on the bumblebees? and should I expect to see them?


Total Posts: 101

Joined 2012-05-31


Welcome to the forum!

Thank you for the great question.
The lack of pollen baskets may be to do with the time of year.
At this time of year, late in the season, the remaining bumblebee colonies will be producing the sexual stages, new queens and males. These will leave their natal nest and mate. The males obviously don’t have pollen baskets and the new queens, although they do possess them, they don’t collect pollen at this time of year, so they won’t be as easy to spot. They spend their time feeding to build up their fat stores to last them through hibernation.

Of course you may also have cuckoo bumblebees. They do not possess pollen baskets at all and you may be able to identify them from their lazy behaviour. There seem to be alot of male cuckoo bumblebees about recently.

If you like to take digital photos of bumblebees and are interested in getting an expert to identify them for you then check out our BeeWatch website

Hope this answers your question,


Total Posts: 45

Joined 2012-08-24


Thanks Elaine. There were so few bumblebees in the garden in early summer, probably because of the weather, that almost all my pics were taken in late July and August. I’ll bear it in mind next year when (of course) we will have wonderful bumblebee friendly weather….*sigh*


Total Posts: 321

Joined 2012-05-24


Hi again CPB,

I can echo Elaine’s comments about significant numbers of males (drones). 

We are in the south Chilterns area.
It’s been cool and wet today, so I’ve seen no BB activity but we have a patch of Golden Marjoram in flower at the moment and also some late Lavender and a Globe Thistle, all of which are attracting honey bees and BBs.

The BBs on them over the last few days have been almost entirely drones - with the notable exception of B. pascuorum, the little Common Carder Bee brown jobs.

And I’m getting hopeful that after the lousy spring and early summer we will still manage to get a useful number of queens into hibernation for next year.