Red-tailed Bumblebee

A short piece this week as it’s on a rather distinctive species in Ireland called the Red-Tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius).

Red-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius).

Red-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius).

 

The red-tailed bumblebee is a beautiful species which appears to be more abundant throughout the southern half of the country, when I’ve found it in the northern half of the country it is generally in coastal type habitats or species rich grassland. In county Waterford (which is located in the south east of Ireland) I have found it in a number of common habitats, grass and parklands, gardens, and also coastal areas.

The type of coastal/species-rich grassland that I find B. lapidarius in Co. Donegal

The type of coastal/species-rich grassland that I find B. lapidarius in Co. Donegal – Oisín Duffy

The red-tailed bumblebee is extremely easy to identify as the body is completely black with a red tail (sometimes this tail might appear orange and it generally fades throughout the year). The species is certainly not the usual bumblebee we think of, no other bands are present on the queens or females. However, the males of the species have a beautiful yellow band at the top of the thorax and also have yellow tufts of hair on the face (the bumblebee beard).

Bombus lapidarius (Male) - Notice the yellow band and yellow tufts of hair on the face (Bumblebee beard).

Bombus lapidarius (Male) – Notice the yellow band and yellow tufts of hair on the face (Bumblebee beard). – Oisín Duffy

The only species which could be confused with the red-tailed bumblebee is the red-shanked bumblebee (Bombus ruderarius) but this species is relatively rare and has a restricted range in the country. The main difference between the two species is that the queens and workers of bombus lapidarius have black hairs on their legs while bombus ruderarius has red hairs.

B. lapidarius worker, showing it's entirely black body and red tail.

B. lapidarius worker, showing it’s entirely black body and red tail.

Overall the species is rather distinctive and once you have seen it (or it’s been pointed out to you) you are not likely to forget it. My next piece will be about the Common Carder Bee (Bombus pascuorum) arguably Ireland’s most common bumblebee species.

If anyone out there has any questions or suggestion regarding this piece or maybe regarding future pieces, feel free to get in touch through twitter @OshDuffy. If you enjoy posts and especially images of plants and pollinators, then be sure to follow me on twitter also. Also feel free to check out my own personal blog which has concise versions my Bumblebee ID posts Oisin Duffy Nature Notes.

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