British Insects: Bumblebees and Cuckoo-bees


L. Watson and M. J. Dallwitz

Bombus subterraneus (Linnaeus)

Subspecies latreillellus (Kirby).

Subgenus. Subgenus Subterraneobombus.

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

Adult morphology. Adult queens, workers and males all similar appearance. Adults about 15–20 mm long (?). Face relatively long; somewhat longer than wide. The facial hairs of males “light to dark” or “mainly dark”; vertex yellow haired and gingery-brown haired (paler anteriorly). The facial hairs of females black; vertex black haired. The clypeus of females predominantly smooth and shining, the central area with only sparse micro-punctures. The tongue not reaching the apex of the abdomen when fully extended. The mandibles of the females round-ended, not oblique. Antennae of the male with the third segment at least as long as the fifth (the fifth only slightly longer); with the third segment considerably longer than the fourth. Thorax not predominantly ginger-haired; banded (broadly black across the middle, with gingery anterior and posterior bands which are brighter in the males); black posteriorly, with a pale anterior band only, or black across the middle, with pale anterior and posterior bands; the light thoracic hairs mid-yellow, or yellowish grey, or mustard yellow, or gingerish yellow, or orange-yellow, or pale greyish whitish, or dirty yellowish (varying in colour, and the posterior one when present paler). 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 extended to form a sharp angle of less than 45 degrees, or produced into a narrow tooth or spine. Scutellum of females at least partly pale-haired. Scutellum of males pale- or predominantly pale-haired.

The abdomen in females exhibiting the hairs mostly black with rear fringes of brownish or pale hairs over tergites 1–3, over the posterior tergites pale gingerish to whitish, coat very short, especially on the anterior segments of the abdomen; posteriorly brighter greenish- or gingerish-yellow in males, some of which lack the anterior black banding. Abdomen not conspicuously patterned (some males), or conspicuously patterned (mostly); with a contrasting tail, or without a contrasting tail (in some males). The tail when contrasting, white to greyish white. Abdomen conspicuously banded between the anterior of the tail and the thorax (mostly), or without conspicuous banding between the anterior of the tail and the thorax (in some males). Abdominal pubescence relatively short and regular.

Male genitalia. The sagittae rather straight to curved inwards around the spatha; externally dentate laterally above the middle; apices apically truncate, turned outwards and produced laterally into a transverse subquadrate process. The ends of the claspers not expanded; dark and horny; not or only slightly emarginate, without teeth; with the volsella readily visible at their ends to with the volsella inconspicuous.

British representation. Recorded from England. Formerly confined in the British Isles to southern and south-eastern England, last recorded at Dungeness in Kent in 1989 and now supposedly extinct. The adults abroad during May to October (females), or June to October (males). Heaths and grassy places, the females strongly associated with legumes.

General comments. A rather large, distinctly short-haired species.

Illustrations. • Bombus ericetorum Panzer (Heath Humble-bee), cf. male B. subterraneus: B. Ent. 564. • Bombus ericetorum: B. Ent. 564, legend+text. • Bombus ericetorum: B. Ent. 564, text cont.. • British Bombus species (3): Saunders. • 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.’.