Identify Bumblebees in 3 Simple Steps!
If you’ve managed to safely get out and about, you will probably have heard the mesmerising buzz of a British bumblebee. From giant fuzzy buzzers to tiny fluffy fellows, the sunshine has brought these beautiful insects out in force!
Why not get out and have a go at spotting and identifying the bumblebees in your area? We found this quite tricky at first, but don’t worry. With the help of Curiosity Champion Andy Benson, we soon nailed the Bee ID (read more about how he switched volleyball for bees here)! You can also get involved with BBC Radio 2’s Big Bee Challenge!
1. Make sure you’re actually looking at a bumblebee!
One of the first ways to identify a bumblebee (and not another garden insect), is to take a close look at its eyes. If their eyes take up most of its face, the chances are you’re looking at a fly. A bumblebee’s eyes are smaller and sit down the sides of its face.
2. Identify the bumblebee species
Now you know you’re looking at a bumblebee, it’s time to work out what type of bumblebee it is. There are 24 species of UK bumblebee, and each species has up to three different castes. That’s A LOT of bumblebee species!
To narrow it down, the most common bumblebees in the UK are “THE BIG EIGHT”!
Step 1: Learn the bumblebee anatomy
There are 4 main parts of the bumblebee which can help you identify which species you’re looking at:
- The head – this is where you’ll see the eyes and antennae
- The thorax – from where the wings and legs stick out.
- The abdomen – is where the reproductive and digestive systems live.
- The tail
Step 2: Tail colour
Is the bumblebee red-tailed, white-tailed or uniform-tailed (the tail colour matches the abdomen colour)?
Step 3: Banding
Many bumblebees have yellow banding, and if you count the number of bands, you can begin to identify the bumblebee species.
So, there you have it: the first steps to learning how to identify a bumblebee! Go ahead and see if you can ID the next bumblebee you see when you’re out and about.
If you’d like some more resources on all things bumblebee, check out the Bumblebee Conservation Trust Family Learning Zone. They have ID spotter sheets and lots of age related activities.
Or, take a look at our subscription boxes options (June is BEE MONTH!):
The Bee Box was created in collaboration with The Bumblebee Conservation Trust and 50p from the sale of every Box goes towards their efforts to protect Bumblebees! We learned so much while putting it together, and we hope you love learning about Bees too!
🐝 Bee B&B: Attract more Bumblebees to wild spaces near you! Create a specially designed Bumblebee B&B
🌼 Flower Power: Design flowers with the juiciest, most attractive pollen and find out how Bees navigate!
🦋 Pollinate (Jumbo/Tots only): Pollination is what keeps our food cycle going so bees are pretty darn important!
🌾 Seedy Socks (Jumbo/Tots only): What seeds are in your area? Are they good for pollinators and can you make some grow?
🔎 A chunky magnifying glass to get a closer look at those bugs and beasties in nature* Jumbo/Tots