Bombus pratorum (Linnaeus,1761)

Description and notes

Keys and general biology are found in Sladen (1912), Free & Butler (1959), Alford (1975) and Prŷs-Jones & Corbet (1991). A rather small yellow and black-banded bumblebee with an orange tail. It is a frequent visitor to the flowers of soft fruit, making it an important pollinator of these.

  • Photo by Nigel Jones
    Queen and male Bombus pratorum in cop. Black Wood, Clunton, Shropshire, 26 May 2007
  • Photo by Nick Owens
    Bombus pratorum queen on thrift, Weybourne, Norfolk, June 2010
  • Photo by Jeremy Early
    Male Bombus pratorum, Reigate, Surrey
  • Photo by Louise Hislop
    Bombus pratorum queen foraging Rosmarinus officinalis. Wylam, Northumberland. 21/4/08
  • Photo by Photo credit required
    Bombus pratorum
  • Photo by Nick Owens
    Bombus pratorum queen on marsh orchid, Holkham, Norfolk, May 2009
  • Photo by Jeremy Early
    Bombus pratorum worker gathering pollen from Californian Lilac, Reigate, Surrey
  • Photo by Louise Hislop
    Bombus pratorum queen with yellow pollen load, clematis alpina. Wylam, Northumberland. 22/4/09
  • Photo by Nick Owens
    Bombus pratorum paired, Yarwell, Northamptonshire, June 2005
  • Photo by Louise Hislop
    Bombus pratorum worker on Nigella (love-in-a-mist). Wylam, Northumberland. 19/6/05
  Pre 1980   1980-99   2000 and later

The following datasets are included:

  • Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society - Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society - Trial Dataset


It is found throughout Great Britain, although absent from the Western and Northern Isles of Scotland. There is a single locality in Sligo, Ireland. Also recorded from the Isles of Scilly and the Channel Islands. It is widespread in Europe; middle and northern latitudes of Asia, eastwards to northern Mongolia (Løken, 1973).

Status (in Britain only)

This bee is not regarded as being scarce or threatened.


B. pratorum is strongly associated with gardens and woodland habitats. Although it may also occur on open grasslands, heath and moorland it is much less frequent there.

Flight period

Bivoltine in the south, with a smaller late-summer generation; univoltine towards the north. Nest-searching queens are among the first species to emerge throughout its range, being present from March to May, according to latitude. The males are similarly early to emerge, often being seen by the end of May or June.

Pollen collected

Polylectic. The flowers of rosaceous plants such as blackthorn (Prunus spinosa), bramble (Rubus fruticosus agg.) and raspberry (Rubus idaeus) are especially popular. Queens are often seen at Rhododendron flowers in gardens.

Nesting biology

This species nests underground in old mouse or vole nests, or in old bird nests, especially if these are in holes in trees - or even bird-boxes. The nest is rather small, usually with fewer than 100 workers.

Flowers visited

Visits are made to a variety of flowers, both for pollen and nectar.


The cuckoo-bee Bombus sylvestris is well-known as attacking this species.

Author of profile

M Edwards.

Year profile last updated

Profile written:

Proofed: April 2012