Bumblebees, Cuckoo Bees and mimics of the Adur Valley



Bumblebees 2006 >

16 December 2005

A late bumblebee flew over a Shoreham garden near Buckingham Park.
13 & 14 November 2005
A large Queen bumblebee flew over a Shoreham garden near Buckingham Park.
9 August 2005
Red-tailed and White-tailed Bumblebees were frequent on Lancing Ring meadows, mostly attracted to Hardheads.
8 July 2005

Hoverfly on Ragwort

This is a mimic of a bumblebee because of the short antennae and hoverfly face.
Merodon equestris var equestris
It was only the size of a Carder Bee. 

Slonk Hill Cutting, south bank


Merodon equestris var equestris.
7 July 2005

Common Carder Bee Bombus pascuorum, favouring Restharrow on the Slonk Hill Cutting (south).

27 June 2005
A White-tailed Bumblebee, Bombus lucorum, entered a Shoreham kitchen and landed on a pink slipper.
16 May 2005
The black colour of some bumblebees makes them difficult to photograph.

The images on the right of the Red-tailed Bumblebee, Bombus lapidarius, was taken in the linear spinney of the south side of the Slonk Hill Cutting.

A small orange mite was seen on this bee. 

21 April 2005
The orange furry Carder Bumblebees favoured the white flowers of the White Dead NettleA handful of Red-tailed Bumblebees, Common Carder Bees Bombus pascuorum, favouring White Dead Nettle, and at least one Buff-tailed Bumblebee from the wooded path (linear spinney) by Slonk Hill South were observed in passing.

19 April 2005
A Red-tailed Bumblebee, Bombus lapidarius, nectared on Dog Violet on the lower slopes of Mill Hill.

17 April 2005
The Red-tailed Bumblebee,Bombus lapidarius, was definitely confirmed from the wooded path by Slonk Hill South and the Common Carder Bee, Bombus pascuorum, from Shoreham gardens and wasteland.

15 April 2005
There were scores of bumblebees in gardens and on wasteland on the edge of town. Buff-tailed Bumblebees were identified, but there were other species as well, almost certainly the White-tailed Bumblebee, Bombus lucorum; but I am not sure about the Red-tailed Bumblebee, Bombus lapidarius, as I was unable to confirm this one.
I have identified this as the White-tailed Bumblebee, Bombus lucorum. This may be wrong mad could very well be a Buff-tailed Bumblebee.

It was one of several seen during the day, this one from the Dovecote Bank.

15 April 2005

This bee in the photograph on the left is very likely a queen Bombus pascuorum. Not the male of Anthophora plumipes which has the integument of the labrum, clypeus and lower paraocular areas (collectively the lower face) bright yellow; in addition the base of the mandible and the ventral surface of the antennal scape are all bright yellow. All these structures in your portrait are black.

3 April 2005
There were scores of Buff-tailed Bumblebees in gardens and the downs (Mill Hill) including, or perhaps mostly, queens. There was at least one Mining Bee as well in the back garden of 40 The Drive (near Buckingham Park), (TQ  219 063)
Adur Mining Bees

7 March 2005
At least two queen Buff-tailed Bumblebees flew around, crashing at least three times at full speed into the glass pane of the French windows at 40 The Drive (near Buckingham Park), (TQ  219 063).

2 February 2005
Just after midday, the first burst of sunshine of the year felt warm in a shade temperature of 9.7 ºC.
This attracted 25+ dark Honey Bees to a Hebe shrub in The Drive (near Buckingham Park), Shoreham, plus a queen Buff-tailed Bumblebee.

2 January 2005
A bumblebee flew rapidly over the back garden of 40 The Drive (near Buckingham Park), (TQ  219 063).

25 October 2004
Nothing of special note apart from the small bee (photographed below on the right) on the Devil's Bit Scabious. It was much slenderer and smaller than the Carder Bee. Its abdomen was also more distinctly "zebra" striped in black and white and not furry like the usual Carders. The legs are partly white in this specimen when bumblebee legs are usually black. The nearest match from the Collins Guide by Michael Chinery (p. 244) is Halictus scabiosa.
PS: The Old Collins Guide shows a better match for Lasioglossum malachurus, but this species has yellow legs. Neither of the illustrations are detailed enough to be sure as it could also be a species of Colletes. Colletes hedera is a feeder on Ivy late in the year. This last one seems most likely, but it is still not quite right.
The consensus on the British Insects (Yahoo Group) is that this small bee is a species of Lasioglossum, but the species is unlikely to be identified by a photograph (I did not think it was anything special when I photographed it).

The solitary bee is Lasioglossum xanthopum - the largest British species of the genus, with males that peak much later than any other species (typically late September/early October - we are still trying to work out how it mates as you rarely see females at this time of year). It is a rather calcicolous species and frequent on the Sussex downs, though I have never surveyed these late enough to see males. It is graded Nationally Scarce at the moment. It can be confused for the similiar Halictus rubicundus (slightly smaller with abdominal dust spots at the apices of the tergites as opposed to the bases like your photo).

Identification and comments by Steven Falk (Senior Keeper of Natural History, Warwickshire Museum)
Solitary Bees of Adur
Bramble Bees and Others (by J. Henri Fabre)
Solitary Bees Page

20 October 2004
Approaching dusk, it was nearly dark when I squelched the muddy trail of the lower slopes of Mill Hill.
A Carder Bee (bumblebee) was asleep on the underside of a Devils's Bit Scabious flower.

A Carder Bee (bumblebee) was asleep on the underside of a Devils's Bit Scabious flower.

24 September 2004
This is the Common Carder Bee, Bombus pascuorum photographed below. They were frequent on the lower slopes of Mill Hill.

27 September 2004.

The photographs show a very faded /sun bleached male.
ID confirmed and comment by Matt Smith on the UK Wildlife (Yahoo Group)

18 August 2004
The following photographs were taken in the Butterfly Copse (TQ 209 063) by the Waterworks Road.

Bombus pascuorum

This one is the Common Carder Bee, Bombus pascuorum. Its legs are all black.

ID confirmed by Matt Smith on UK Wildlife (Yahoo Group)

1 July 2004

This is my first bumblebee of July 2004, and there are plenty of bumblebees around. It was on the path outside my front garden in Shoreham town. The lemony colour rather indicates the White-tailed Bumblebee Queen, Bombus lucorum.
ID confirmed by Matt Smith on UK Wildlife (Yahoo Group)
Jewel Bumble Bee (Photograph by Andy Horton)
A Red-tailed Bumblebee, Bombus lapidarius, crawled out of the long grass just south of the reservoir on Mill Hill. There was a small orange phoretic mite on its abdomen. (17 March 2003)
The bumblebee on the railway path near the Toll Bridge, Old Shoreham, was striped orange and black. This was the Buff-tailed Bumblebee, Bombus terrestris, which is the commonest species locally. The white tail is usually very clear with this species. (The White-tailed Bumblebee, Bombus locurum is similar but smaller.) 
(19 March 2003)
The hoverfly Volucella bombylans var. plumata was discovered near the copse on Mill Hill. This white-tailed hoverfly (pic) is a bumblebee mimic.
(15 May 2003)
 Common Carder Bee in a Shoreham town garden on 17 August 2003
 This species is probably Bombus pascuorum, which does not look that same as the books because it loses its orange furry thorax as the summer wears on. It is a common species that is more likely to be overlooked because of its small size. 
(Identication help by Keith Edkins)
Common Carder Bee

Another two were discovered in April 2004. This bumblebee was occasionally seen on the levels and downs in May 2004
Pic from Ireland.
Regulars in gardens during June and July 2004.
(The original photograph was replaced by a new on on 29 April 2005)
ID confirmed by Matt Smith

It has a lemony-orange tinge, I think this one is the the White-tailed  Bumblebee, Bombus lucorum
Photographed in the company of others at Buckingham Road-embankment south (west of Slonk Hill)

ID help by Matt Smith

Jewel Bumble Bee (Photograph by Andy Horton)
21 June 2004
This hoverfly looks like the bumblebee mimic Volucella bombylans var. bombylans seen hovering around in the field next to the stream between the Steyning Road (A283) and the Waterworks (TQ 209 068).
17 March 2003

A Red-tailed Bumblebee, Bombus lapidarius, crawled out of the long grass just south of the reservoir on Mill Hill. There was a small orange phoretic mite on its abdomen.
I am tempted to say that the mite is a deutonymph of Parasitellus.
Predators and symbionts of Bumblebees

23 July 2003
Vestal Cuckoo Bumblebee, Bombus (Psithyrus) vestalis, male worker. On Slonk Hill
Report of the Day

25 June 2004  at Lancing Clump meadows

Buff-tailed Bumblebees were frequently seen, taking the whole meadow they were common with numbers well over a hundred. A few seemed to be the larger Vestal Cuckoo Bumblebee, Bombus (Psithyrus) vestalis, Queen shown in the photograph above.

ID  by Matt Smith
Cuckoo bees lay their eggs in the nests of bumblebees and their larvae are fed and looked after by the bumblebee workers.
This is one of the most common cuckoo bees. It has a yellow collar band, and a white stripey tail, with small yellow side patches at the top of the white tail. Its wings are browner than the wings of bumble bees.
from Mrs Smith's Bumblebee page
Until recently, cuckoo bumblebees were once considered to belong to a separate genus (Psithyrus) in recognition of their distinctive appearance and their behaviour as parasites in the colonies of other bumblebees. Lately, experts have, by and large, agreed that all bumblebees belong to a single genus, Bombus, with Psithyrus as a subgenus. Cuckoo bees are similar in appearance to bumblebees, but they have a softer ‘buzz’, indeed Psithyrus means ‘murmuring’ as opposed to ‘Bombus’, which means ‘booming’. Other differences include the lack of pollen baskets on the legs and a sparser coat of hairs, through which the shiny black cuticle can easily be seen.
from the Arkive web page

19 March 2003
A steady stream of orange-tailed bumblebees were observed flying eastwards over the shingle beach to the seaward edge of Widewater Lagoon. Over a period of two hours, a bee must have passed every 30 seconds and I estimated the total numbers passing at about 136. Later in the afternoon a smaller fly-pass occurred.

Report by Bob Kent (Lancing) via the Lancing Nature Smart Group
NB: The species was probably the Red-tailed (Jewel) Bumblebee, Bombus lapidarius.

Social Bees
Parasites on Bumblebees
Classification of Acari
Six Common Species of Bumblebees (UK)
World List of Bumblebees (NHM)
BBC Bumblebee Pages
Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society Website
British Bumblebee List

NHM Bumbebee ID

British Insects on Yahoo Groups

Bees, Wasps and Ants (Yahoo Group)

Bumblebees FAQ

Adur Hoverflies

Back to Mill Hill page

Adur Insect Links:

Solitary Bees
Adur Bees, Wasps & Sawflies

Link to the Adur Nature Notes 2004 Index pageLink to Adur Valley Nature Notes 2003Latest Nature Notes and Index page 2002