British Insects: Bumblebees and Cuckoo-bees

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L. Watson and M. J. Dallwitz

Bombus lucorum (Linnaeus)

Subspecies lucorum s. str. and magnus Vogt.

White-tailed bumblebee.

Subgenus. Subgenus Bombus s. str.

Biology. Social insects forming organized communities; the larvae feeding on pollen and nectar gathered and prepared by the adult females. Nesting underground.

Adult morphology. Females and workers similar in appearance, the males somewhat different (the males have a distinctive yellow nose, and the thoracic and abdominal yellow banding is somewhat broader). Adults about 11–20 mm long (queens about 19–20, workers 11–17, males 14–16). Face at least as wide as long, or wider. The facial hairs of males yellow; vertex yellow haired. The facial hairs of females black; vertex black haired. The mandibles of the females round-ended, not oblique; females with a fairly conspicuous posterior tooth. Antennae of the male with the third segment at least as long as the fifth; with the third segment considerably longer than the fourth. Thorax banded (blackish-greyish, with a narrow bright lemon-yellow anterior band; and some males with an additional yellow band posteriorly); black posteriorly, with a pale anterior band only (mostly), or black across the middle, with pale anterior and posterior bands (in some males); the light thoracic hairs clear lemon-yellow (sometimes less bright in the queens). The outer surface of the hind tibiae of females with a conspicuous ‘pollen basket’, in the form of an elongate, shiny, hairless, area framed by stout hairs. The hind tibiae of the males having a fringe of long hairs along the outer margin. Mid basitarsus of females with the distal-posterior margin broadly rounded to narrow, but if pointed forming an angle of more than 45 degrees, not projected into a tooth or spine. Hind basitarsus of the male with a relatively broad base and fringed with short hairs on its hind edge. Scutellum of females exclusively black-haired. Scutellum of males black- or predominantly black-haired, or pale- or predominantly pale-haired.

The abdomen in queens black with an orange band across the middle and a whitish tail, the less contrastingly patterned workers and males blackish-greyish with the central yellow band paler and the tail white. Abdomen conspicuously patterned; with a contrasting tail. The tail white to greyish white, or buff. Abdomen conspicuously banded between the anterior of the tail and the thorax; with a pale band adjacent to the thorax, or with a pale band across the middle.

Male genitalia. The sagittae rather straight to curved inwards around the spatha; smooth to the base, neither serrate nor dentate nor hooked externally; apices slightly divergent, and laterally bidentate. The ends of the claspers not expanded; dark and horny; conspicuously emarginate and toothed; with the volsella hidden by the squama.

British representation. Recorded from England, Wales, Mainland Scotland, Hebrides, Orkney, Shetland, Channel Isles, and Ireland. Common and widespread in divers habitats throughout the British Isles, frequently in gardens. The adults abroad during February to September (females), or May to September (males).

General comments. The males have a distinctive yellow nose, but workers of B. lucorum and B. terrestris may not be reliably distinguishable in the field.

Illustrations. • B. lucorum: queen, worker and male (photo). • Male genital capsules of Bombus and Psithyrus.


To view illustrations with legends giving names in current use, go to the interactive key. This also offers full and partial descriptions, diagnostic descriptions, differences and similarities between taxa, lists of taxa exhibiting or lacking specified attributes, and distributions of character states within any set of taxa, as well as source references and other relevant material.

Cite this publication as: ‘Watson, L., and Dallwitz, M.J. 2003 onwards. British insects: Bumblebees and Cuckoobees. Version: 1st January 2012. http://delta-intkey.com’.

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