Belongs to: bumblebees

Compare with: red-tailed bumblebee

Red-shanked bumblebee Bombus ruderarius

Best time to see: May to late Aug

Key facts

A carder bumblebee that is declining nationally but is still widespread, but not common, in Essex

Found on coastal and estuarine grazing marshes, especially in the East Thames Corridor

Require extensive flower-rich foraging areas, especially deadnettles and flowers in the pea family


Queens are mainly black apart from their red tail; workers are similar but smaller, sometimes tiny

Males are variable, sometimes like the workers, sometimes with yellow bands

Distinguished from the red-tailed bumblebee by orange-red hairs on the pollen baskets


Nest is made of grass and moss in long vegetation, at or just below the surface, sometimes using an old mouse nest

Colonies have 50 to 100 workers, breaking up in late summer

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

© Tony Gunton