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Brown-banded Carder Bee (Bombus humilis)

Brown-banded Carder Bee

Bombus humilis

Once present throughout much of England and Wales, the Brown-banded Carder Bee has retreated southwards to localities such as the Thames Gateway and Salisbury Plain. Showing signs of recovery in some areas such as the Midlands.

Appearance

Queens, workers and males all have a bright ginger thorax and buff abdomen. A third of the way down the abdomen, there is usually a band of darker ginger hairs. If viewed closely, there are dark hairs above the wing bases.

Brown-banded-Carder-Bee

About the bee

– bright ginger thorax
– ginger-brown band on abdomen
– scattered black hairs above wing bases

Size

– Queen: 13mm
– Worker: 10mm
– Male: 11mm

Tongue length

Long

Nest

Usually on the surface in tall grasses, or sometimes underground.

Colony size

Small (fewer than 50 workers).

Map and flight periods

bombus-humilis map

Similar species

The Common Carder Bee is much more widespread and likely to be seen in gardens. It has a duller thorax, lacks the brown band and usually has black hairs between the cream abdominal bands.

The Moss Carder Bee is of similar appearance, but lacks the brown banding and does not have dark hairs above the wing bases.

The Shrill Carder Bee is smaller, slimmer and much greyer in appearance.

Bombus humilis, brown-banded carder bee, Biodiversity Action Pla

Bombus humilis, the brown-banded carder bee, is also a rare Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) species, on the decline almost everywhere.

Status and distribution

The Brown-banded Carder Bee Bombus humilis has declined sharply in the UK over the last forty years or so, mainly because it needs large areas of grassland rich in flowers, especially vetches, clovers and trefoils for feeding.

The queens also need tussocky grass containing mouse nests in which they found their colonies, raking in moss and fine grass leaves.

Heavy grazing, “improvement” of pastures, encroachment of scrub and the use of herbicides have all taken their toll on humilis and other specialist bees such as the Shrill Carder Bumblebee Bombus sylvarum.

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