A large species with three tails and large hind wings. The sub-imago (immature adult) has grey wings, with a yellowish green tinge and heavy venation. The body is creamy yellow with distinctive brown markings on the body segments. The tails are dark grey black and the legs are a creamy olive colour with black markings. In general, the colours of the wings, tails and legs are darker, and the body paler in the male. The imago (fully mature adult) has transparent wings, which have heavy brown venation and several dark patches. The body is creamy white with the last three segments brownish. The tails are extremely long and almost black in colour.
Another highlight of the year !!
Historically, widely distributed throughout northern and western Britain and recently recorded from Ireland. There are very few records from south-eastern England, but it did formerly occur on the higher areas of the Weald near Hindhead in Surrey (specimen in Haslemere Museum collection). There is a marked decline in the distribution of this bumblebee throughout its former range in Britain. The species is boreo-alpine in western Europe only: northern and western Fennoscandia, the Pyrenees, northern Italy, the Alps and Balkan mountains. The closely related B. lapponicus has a more easterly distribution (Svensson 1979).
Status (in Britain only)
This bee was not regarded as being scarce or threatened, but has now been included on English Nature’s Species Recovery Programme because of the modern evidence of serious decline.
Associated with mountain and moorland habitat, although scarce in pure moorland areas. Recent research has shown a frequent connection with grassland habitats as well as moorland ones.
The species is eusocial, with queens emerging from hibernation in April; workers are present from May onwards, and males and new females from July to early October.
Nests are underground and are started in old mammal nests. Nest sizes are fairly small, and the colonies often have fewer than 50 workers. The life-cycle is also short, about 3-4 months.
There are clear flower-visiting preferences for this species, with bilberries (Vaccinium spp.) and sallow (Salix spp.) being much used in spring; bird’s-foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus), clovers (Trifolium spp.) and raspberry (Rubus idaeus) and bramble (Rubus fruticosus agg.) in early to mid summer and bell heather (Erica cinerea) and bilberries in mid to late summer.
It is likely that this species is attacked by the socially parasitic bee, Bombus sylvestris
ID to be confirmed.
Throughout much of Britain and Ireland, the range extending as far north as East Sutherland (Golspie) and including the Isle of Man. There are no records from the Channel Islands. A north and central European species occurring from northern Fennoscandia to Turkey and the central Urals.
Status (in Britain only)
This bee is not regarded as being scarce or threatened.
Woodland, heaths, moors and coastal dunes. Rarely abundant.
Univoltine; mid May to mid July, exceptionally early August.
The species is reported to nest solitarily (Kocourek, 1966; Dylewska, 1987; Westrich, 1989). However, R.C.L. Perkins (1919) found a small aggregation of about a dozen burrows placed close together.
In addition to the forage species listed above, the bee has also been reported to visit bilberry (Vaccinium sp.), hawthorn (Crataegus sp.), plum (Prunus sp.), water-dropwort (Oenanthe sp.), wood spurge (Euphorbia amygdaloides) and yellow pimpernel (Lysimachia nemorum).
Nomada panzeri Lepeletier is a probable cleptoparasite of this species
Body lengths, female 15 mm, male 14 mm.
To be seen around the nests of Bombus pratorum.
When to see it
Spring and summer.
Cuckoo Bumblebee of Bombus pratorum. Males tend to patrol mating circuits within 1 m of the ground.
Widespread and fairly frequent in Britain.
Widely distributed and generally locally common throughout much of the British Isles. It is, however, inexplicably very scarce in Kent (G W Allen, pers. comm.) and Essex (P Harvey, pers. comm.). The range extends north to central Scotland (Renfrew, Midlothian and West Perthshire) and includes the Isle of Man. It is also widespread in Ireland. There are no records of the species from the Channel Islands. In Europe it is mainly found in the north (reaching northern Finland), with only scattered records from further south.
Status (in Britain only)
This species is not regarded as being scarce or threatened.
Found with the host bee in open woodland, on heaths and moors (ascending to 300 m on Dartmoor, Devon).
Univoltine; early March to mid-May.
A cleptoparasite of Andrena apicata (Perkins, 1919, 1943, 1945; Chambers, 1949) and A. clarkella (Perkins, 1919). Often observed in the vicinity of the nest burrows of these two species of mining bees, especially A. clarkella.
Barren strawberry, bilberry, dandelion and sallow.
This butterfly is the most widespread of our hairstreaks. However, it is also a local species, forming distinct colonies which can be as small as a few dozen individuals, although other colonies can be much larger. Both sexes always settle with their wings closed, the brown uppersides only ever being seen in flight. The undersides, by contrast, provide the illusion of being green, an effect produced by the diffraction of light on a lattice-like structure found within the wing scales, which provides excellent camouflage as the butterfly rests on a favourite perch, such as a Hawthorn branch. This butterfly will also regulate its body temperature by tilting its wings appropriately to catch the sun’s rays. This butterfly is found throughout the British Isles – partly due to the wide variety of foodplants it uses, and the wide range of habitats it frequents. However, it is absent from the Isle of Man, Outer Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland.