Bumblebee Identification Part 1 –

Bumblebees – Oisín Duffy

Ireland has 20 native species of bumblebee, but like most things some are rare or have restricted ranges and are not commonly seen.  The most commonly encountered species are Bombus lucorum, Bombus terrestris, Bombus Pascuorum, Bombus Hortorum, Bombus Jonellus. Depending on your location you may also see Bombus Muscorum. Bombus lapidarius is more common in the south of the country and is listed as vulnerable in the Irish bee Red List.

Bumblebee identification can seem daunting to begin with, but like most things it gets easier with time. Thankfully you can take a systematic approach to their identification. This will generally start with tail colour, moving on to the number of bands on the thorax or abdomen.
The three species we will be discussing in this post are B. pascuorum, B. muscorum and B. lapidarius.

B. pascuorum (also known as the common carder bee) is Ireland’s most commonly seen bumblebee species and is found across a wide range of habitats, including hedgerows, grasslands, meadows and even gardens. The species has a distinctive ginger thorax, which is flanked by white hairs, both brown and black hairs are found on the abdomen.

B. pascuroum – Notice the ginger thorax, surrounded by the white hairs. Dark hairs are also present on the abdomen.
B. pascuroum – Notice the ginger thorax, surrounded by the white hairs. Dark hairs are also present on the abdomen.

B. muscorum (also known as the large carder bee) is found in large open, flower rich habitats, generally found in sand dune systems. Both B. muscorum and B. pascuorum have a ginger coloured thorax and this can sometimes cause confusion when trying to identify individuals. B. muscorum has blond hairs flanking its thorax, which distinguishes it from the white flanked thorax of B. pascuroum. The colour of the hairs flanking the thorax in B. muscorum gives the species a very blond appearance. This species has a “Near Threatened” conservation status in Ireland.

B. muscorum – Notice the ginger thorax, surrounded by blond hairs. The abdomen is a distinctive blond colour with no black hairs
B. muscorum – Notice the ginger thorax, surrounded by blond hairs. The abdomen is a distinctive blond colour with no black hairs

B. lapidarius (also known as the red tailed bumblebee) is a species which is more common in the southern half of the country and appears to have a more limited distribution in the north (floral rich meadows and dune systems). This species is very distinctive, its tail is red in colour (this can often look orange) with an entirely black body. The workers of this species are not easily confused with any other common species of bumblebee in Ireland. (It is however confused with some rarer species in Ireland). This species has a “Near Threatened” conservation status in Ireland.

B. lapidarius – Notice how this species is completely black except for a red tail. The hairs on the legs of this species are also black. Another species B. ruderarius is very similar to B. lapidarius except it has red leg hairs.
B. lapidarius – Notice how this species is completely black except for a red tail. The hairs on the legs of this species are also black. Another species B. ruderarius is very similar to B. lapidarius except it has red leg hairs.

For more information on species covered in this post check out –

http://apps.biodiversityireland.ie/BeesBrowser/speciesinfo.php?TaxonId=56027

http://apps.biodiversityireland.ie/BeesBrowser/speciesinfo.php?TaxonId=56019

http://apps.biodiversityireland.ie/BeesBrowser/speciesinfo.php?TaxonId=55990

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