Brown-banded Carder Bee
Latin name: Bombus humilis
Notable feature: The ginger-brown band on the upper abdomen that gives this species its name, but it is easy to confuse with the Common Carder Bee (Bombus pascuorum)
Conservation Status: Least Concern
Where in the UK: Listed as a species of Principal Importance in the UK, it can be found on open flower-rich grasslands in the south of England and Wales; with nationally important populations in the Thames Estuary.
Brown-banded Carder Bee (Bombus humilis) © Sam Ashfield
The Brown-banded Carder Bee (Bombus humilis) is a native, medium-sized bumblebee.
The Brown-banded Carder Bee is the rarest of the 3 ginger bumblebee species; it has a bright ginger thorax and a ginger/brown band at the top of the abdomen. There are black hairs under the wings.
The ginger-brown band on the upper abdomen that gives this species its name, but it is easy to confuse with the Common Carder Bee (Bombus pascuorum)
Bumblebees mate in late summer and the queens store fat reserves to hibernate underground over the winter. They emerge in early spring to feed and find new nests, where they incubate eggs. The eggs hatch into larvae which pupate into worker bees until late summer when males are produced. These then emerge in August-September to mate with the new queens.
- Size: Queens measure 16-18mm in length, whilst workers will measure 10-15mm in length
- Life span: Annual life cycle; queens will live approximately one year, workers a couple of months and males just a few weeks
- Diet: Brown-banded Carder Bees feed on clovers (Trifolium), knapweeds (Centaurea), Red Bartsia (Odontites vernus), vetches (Vicia) and other similar pea (Fabaceae) and mint (Lamiaceae) species
- Reproduction: Brown-banded Carder Bees mate in late summer; the queens store fat reserves to hibernate underground over the winter. They emerge in early spring to feed and find new nests, where they incubate eggs. The eggs hatch into larvae which pupate into worker bees until late summer when males are produced. These then emerge in August-September to mate with the new queens.
- When to see: May to early June (queens emerging), June through to September for worker bees and males from around August.
- Population Trend: Decreasing. Once widespread in lowland Britain, it is now declining and increasingly restricted to coastal areas.
- Threats: Loss of habitat, as a result of agricultural intensification, urbanisation and scrub encroachment; loss of flowers in the landscape
- Fun Fact: The Brown-banded Carder Bee may be found nesting in old mouse burrows that they cover with grass and moss.
How you can help:
Buglife is working to increase awareness of invertebrates and the Brown-banded Carder Bee through specific projects, including B-Lines, Life on the Edge and our work at Canvey Wick but we need your help!
Buglife B-Lines are an imaginative and beautiful solution to the problem of the loss of flowers and pollinators. B-Lines are a series of ‘insect pathways’ running through our countryside and towns, along which we are restoring and creating a series of wildflower-rich habitat stepping stones. Linking existing wildlife areas together, creating a network, like a railway, that will weave across the UK landscape. More information about B-Lines and how you can help pollinators can be found on our B-Lines & Pollinator Projects pages.
Join a recording scheme and log your finds – take part in the Bumblebee Conservation Trust’s national BeeWalk, send any records/sightings to BWARS or download the iRecord app and get recording!
Do remember that we rely on donations to continue our work. If you have searched, found and learnt about our incredible invertebrates on our website, please do consider Making a Donation, Becoming a Member or maybe even making a purchase in our shop. For more ideas on how to support our work find out how to Get Involved. Thank you 🕷