Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Bumblebees in April

(originally published April 26, 2012) Ok you may have to bear with me on this subject, I am very slowly getting the hang of bumblebees but since this is my first year of attempting to identify them I may well get one or two wrong. This applies to all insects really. I find it hard to tell some species apart so mistakes and revisions are bound to happen. If I am at any point unsure about an ID I will make a note next to the picture so that people can tell when something is not certain.

Ahem, anyway, this blog will cover the members of the genus Bombus, which covers the carder, cuckoo and bumblebees of Ireland. First is my favourite species, the carder bee, I like the reddish colouration. It’s quite common and I have found several in the city as well as in Ballycotton.

Most common around the city are these two species, the white tailed and the buff tailed bumblebee, these two are a bit too similar for my taste with the tail and stripes being of a slightly different colouration. I have only confidently split the ones with extremely yellow and extremely orange stripes from each other. It is their queens that are easiest to tell apart and there’s been plenty of them around for the past month.

White tailed bumblebees

Buff tailed bumblebees

The also common red tailed bumblebee is a bit easier to identify, seeing that its mostly black with a red tail. There is a rare species up the country that looks quite similar but down here in Cork it’s probably safe to assume that these are red tails.

And now for the complicated bees, I think....and I do mean think that this is a garden bumblebee given that its a long looking specimen and has a joined stripe on the thorax and the abdomen indicating that its not a white or buff tailed. I could be wrong...

This bee I am finding much harder to identify. Its tiny and looks at first glance almost black. Its reddish tail seem to suggest that its an early bumblebee but frankly I am just not sure. Hopefully with further research I will be able to pin this one down.

Most of my fevered attempts at identifying these fat little insects comes from this website, a great way to get started if your interested in Irelands diverse bee species.

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