Insects of Britain and Ireland: the families of Hymenoptera

DELTA home

L. Watson and M. J. Dallwitz


Hive Bees, Humble- or Bumble-bees, Cuckoo Bees.

Adults medium sized to large; 10–22 mm long; very hairy; with branched or feathery hairs on the body. Social insects forming organized communities (typically), or solitary insects (Psithyrus); the adult populations typically including specialised, sterile females constituting ‘workers’ (i.e., except in Psithyrus).

Head. Antennal segments (10–)12 (females), or (10–)13 (males). The labrum broader than long. Tongue longer than the prementum; pointed. Labial palps with segments 1 and 2 much longer than the distal two, and flattened. Mentum and submentum present.

Thorax. Pronotum more or less straight at the back; short, not extending back to the tegulae. Cenchri absent. Wings present. Fore-wings with a conspicuous pterostigma, or without a pterostigma; with the venation well developed. Closed fore-wing cells 6–10. Submarginal cells 3. Discoidal cells 2. Hind-wings with closed cells. Hind femur without a well defined trochantellus. Hind tibiae with spurs specialised for a cleaning rôle (Bombus), or without specialised spurs (the rest). Hind basitarsi wider than the other segments.

Abdomen. The abdomen with a marked basal constriction; short-waisted. The ‘waist’ simple. Visible abdominal segments 6 (females), or 7 (males). The gaster concolorous, or colour-patterned; when concolorous, black, dark brown, reddish brown or rarely yellow; when patterned, black-and-orange or reddish orange, black-and-brown or reddish brown, black-and-yellow, black-and-white, black and grey and yellow, or black and yellow and white. Ovipositor of females not visibly protruding; modified as a retractable sting.

Larvae. Larvae legless or the legs vestigial; socially parasitic on hosts selected by the mother and predacious (the larvae of the solitary ‘Cuckoo Bee’ genus Psithyrus being raised in the nests of host Bombus species), or feeding on material manufactured by the adults.

British representation. Species in Britain 28; Apis, Bombus and Psithyrus, with 9 subgenera of Bombus.

Classification. Suborder Apocrita; Series Aculeata; Superfamily Apoidea.

Illustrations. • Apis mellifera (Honey Bee): B. Ent. 769. • Apis mellifera (Honey Bee): B. Ent. 769, legend+text. • Apis mellifera (Honey Bee): B. Ent. 769, text cont.. • Bombus ericetorum Panzer (Heath Humble-bee), cf. male Bombus subterraneus - seemingly not the mainland-European B. hypnorum ssp. ericetorum): B. Ent. 564. • Bombus ericetorum: B. Ent. 564, legend+text. • Bombus ericetorum: B. Ent. 564, text cont.. • Psithyrus rupestris (Black-winged Bumble-bee: B. Ent. 468). • Psithyrus rupestris (detail: B. Ent. 468). • Psithyrus rupestris (dissections: B. Ent. 468). • Psithyrus rupestris: B. Ent. 468, legend+text. • Psithyrus rupestris: B. Ent. 468, text cont.. • Bombus lapidarius (Red-tailed Bumble-bee: Shaw and Nodder, about 1800). • British Bombus spp. (1): Saunders. • British Bombus spp. (2): Saunders. • British Bombus species (3): Saunders. • British Bombus species (4): Saunders. • Bombus soroeensis, B. terrestris and Apis mellifera: Saunders. • Psithyrus rupestris, P. vestalis, P. campestris, P. sylvestris, P barbutellus: Saunders. • Bombus cf. pascuorum (Carder Bee): as Bombus cognatus, Stephens 1846.

To view the illustrations with detailed captions, 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.

Cite this publication as: ‘Watson, L., and Dallwitz, M.J. 2003 onwards. Insects of Britain and Ireland: the families of Hymenoptera. Version: 16th May 2016.’.