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Buff-tailed bumblebee (Bombus terestris)

The Buff-tailed bumblebee (Bombus terestris) or large earth bumblebee, is one of the most numerous bumblebee species in Europe.

Buff-tailed bumblebees are the biggest of the bumblebees and emerge in early spring. They are named after the buff-coloured tail of their queen, as the worker bees have almost white tails, which makes them easy to mistake for white-tailed bumblebees! 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. They nest underground in large groups of up to 600 bees, often using old mammal nests.

It is one of the main species used in greenhouse pollination and so can be found in many countries and areas where it is not native, such as Tasmania.

Moreover, it is a eusocial insect with an overlap of generations, a division of labour, and cooperative brood care. The queen is monandrous, which means she mates with only one male. Bombus terrestris workers learn flower colours and forage efficiently.

Seen in the gardens of Chiswick House in July 2023.

Not to be confused with the Common carder bumblebee.


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