Belongs to: bumblebees

Compare with: red-tailed bumblebee

Early bumblebee Bombus pratorum

Best time to see: mid Mar to mid Sep

Key facts

A small bumblebee with a rust-red tail, common throughout Britain in a variety of habitats including gardens

True to their name, queens emerge from hibernation early and are usually the first to be seen around in spring


Queens are mainly black with two yellow bands and a rust-red tail; males similar with yellow hair on the face

Workers are very variable is size, some being tiny, like the queen but often with no yellow band on the abdomen

Rarely seen beyond the end of July


Nest in a variety of places, sometimes underground but often high up in roofs or trees, or in birdboxes

Colonies are small and mature quickly, so queens often start a second and even a third brood during summer

Queens emerge from hibernation in spring, build themselves up with nectar and pollen, then search for a nest-site

© Peter Harvey