• Name: Buff-tailed bumble bee | Bombus terrestris
  • Size: Queen is 2cm or more, workers and drones are of a more common bumblebee size: 14 to 17 mm, in length.
  • Life span: 1 year (the younger queens are the only ones to hibernate through the winter) 
  • Diet: They love all types of flowers but especially like open daisy-like flowers, where they can more easily reach the nectar with their short tongues.
  • Reproduction: The Buff tailed bumble is a singly mating species.  Once the male and female have mated the female lays eggs.  In addition to the Queen, the workers can lay eggs. Since workers do not mate, all of their eggs will develop into drones.
  • When to see: Spring & Summer (March to August)
  • Where to see: Can be seen across the Islands wherever there are flowers (particularly fond of Echiums & Heather)
  • Conservation status: Common
  • Population Trend: Stable-Increasing (becoming winter active in many towns/cities in the UK)
  • Threats:  Climate change: lack of available food due to unpredictable environmental conditions can often negatively affect colony growth, reproduction, and resistance to parasites. Pesticides exposure
  • Fun Fact: Buff-tailed Bumblebees are known as ‘nectar robbers’: if they come across a flower that is too deep for their tongue, they bite a hole at its base and suck out the nectar. Afterwards, other insects looking for nectar will also use this handy hole.

Description: This is the most numerous bumblebee in Scilly and lives in colonies numbering a few hundred individuals. 

The Buff-tailed bumblebee has a yellow collar near the head and another on the abdomen. The queen has a buff-coloured 'tail', while the workers have white 'tails' with a faint buff line separating them from the rest of the abdomen. Males have buff-tinged tails and also have black hair on their faces.

The Queens hibernate throughout the winter, emerging in early spring to "nectar-up" before establishing new nest sites. 

Queens are the only ones which actually have buff-coloured tails, workers and males both have white tails.

Want to know more?  Check out the Bumblebee Conservation Trust Website or why not take part in the BeeWalk Survey?


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With thanks to Barefoot Photographer for Buff-tailed bumblebee image