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Amazing interaction between a Cuckoo male and an Early bb male


Total Posts: 101

Joined 2012-05-31


A BeeWatch user has shared with us the most fascinating sequence of photos.

Apologies for messing with the seasons and skipping to the end of the bumblebee lifecycle but you will have to imagine it is a warm balmy day in August for this one. There are male bumblebees everywhere, some lazing about, their life’s mission complete, some still living in the hope of meeting that one special lady!

All of a sudden an Early male bumblebee, sitting on his usual leaf, minding his own business is suddenly subject to an unprovoked attack by a male Forest cuckoo bumblebee.

The first two photos show a very clear interaction between these two males. The final photo shows the Early male having survived the assault, but still clearly angry and raising his legs in protest.

Anthony has come up with an interesting explanation for this amazing behaviour but before I share it with you, I wondered if any of you have seen anything like this and if you have, what is your interpretation for this behaviour.

Regards, elaine

PS Sorry that the photos are so tiny, had to scrunch them to attach them here.


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Total Posts: 43

Joined 2012-07-27


What an amazing sequence and I’m so glad the Early bee survived

I have seen Bees attack each other but this was before I could tell the difference between each species. I can remember many years ago I saw a large Queen being attacked by 3 other bees, they were all rolling about on the lawn and if I remember rightly the Queen didn’t survive. She may have been a Bombus Lucorum but I couldn’t tell you if the others were cuckoos or not.

It’ll be interesting to hear Anthony’s theory


Total Posts: 101

Joined 2012-05-31



just to follow up on this topic.
One of the strategies that male bumblebees employ to attract females is a sort of territorial patrolling behaviour.

They tend to chose a linear path following tall vegetation and faithfully patrol this area in the hope of attracting an unsuspecting female. On their way they scent-mark certain leaves which is very attractive to the females.

Anthony thinks that this Early bumblebee was possibly scent-marking this leaf when the Forest-cuckoo bee got too close, maybe because their territories overlapped a little.
It is also interesting to see these two species interact as the Early bumblebee is one of the host species of the Forest-cuckoo bee!