There are several species of Bombus that are known to produce melanistic offspring I saw well over 8 today on my walk.
Status (in Britain only)
Listed as a Notable (B) species Falk (1991) [now known as Scarce (Nb)], but becoming more abundant.
Although its host is a frequent species in gardens, most records relate to areas of unimproved grasslands
The females do not usually come out of hibernation until late May or June and can be seen searching for host nests during the latter month. The new generation of adults emerges in late July or August
In early summer, each female Bombus rupestris enters an established nest of B. lapidarius where it attacks and kills the resident queen. The parasite then establishes itself as the “queen” in the nest with its complement of B. lapidarius workers. The female B. rupestris lays female, and then male eggs that will be reared by the B. lapidarius workers. Once egg laying is completed, the female B. rupestris dies in the nest.
Mainly plants in the families Apiaceae, Lamiaceae and Asteraceae…. BWARS
One of our smaller cuckoo bumblebees, a parasite of B. pascuorum and possibly other carder bees such as humilis and ruderarius. It is a rather variable species which can produce challenges during field identification. Females are relatively small, fluffy and with a sparse body pilosity, especially on the abdomen. The typical pattern comprises a broad buff collar, a conspicuous buff-haired scutellum and a tail that is buff-haired at the sides but remains black-haired in the middle. Darkened females are occasionally encountered, whilst in Scotland, females are occasionally found with the thorax almost entirely yellow (form swynnertoni).
Males are extremely variable. At the palest extreme they are almost entirely pale-haired except for a black band between and below the wing bases and another black band around tergite 2. The thorax frequently becomes entirely black leaving just the tip of the abdomen buff-haired, and fully black individuals are not rare. It is also possible to find males with white tails which can rather resemble barbutellus males, though the white tail is generally more extensive in campestris (tergite 3 onwards). Fortunately, campestris males have a conspicuous pair of hair tuft on sternite 6 which should be viewable on a hand-held specimen using a hand lens, and the genitalia is very distinct (checking this will necessitate the taking of a specimen)… Steve Falk
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
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.
The guys at BWARS think this is Bombus cryptarum but as y read in the info below without DNA it cant be recorded I suppose that is why the map is sparsely populated with records.
Possibly the most poorly-understood British bumblebee. It is very closely related to B. lucorum, but genetic studies show that it is a distinct taxa both in Britain and abroad.
Within the British Isles it is seemingly widespread in the north and west, and is especially frequent in Ireland. Unfortunately, it is scarcely distinguishable from lucorum in the field. It is said that the yellow collar has a characteristic dark S-shaped pattern in front of the wing bases, but the reliability of this has been questioned. So unless you can get your ‘Bombus lucorum’s’ DNA-tested, it unlikely that you will ever be able to record this species with confidence and many ‘lucorum’ records will need to be treated as ‘lucorum sensu lato’.