Beginners bees and wasps: Anthophora plumipes - hairy-footed flower bee

Anthophora plumipes

hairy-footed flower bee

A large, bumblebee sized species, that often nests in the soft mortar and exposed cob of old walls. Occasionally it will nest in the ground, preferring bare compacted clay soils. Common and widespread in much of England and Wales, especially in towns, cities and villages. Flies from late February to mid-June, and is extremely fond of visiting Lungwort (Pulmonaria) flowers.

Key features: Female

  • Resembles a small, black bumblebee with orange-red hairs on the hind leg
  • Look for the swift-darting flight
  • Shows a marked liking for Lungwort flowers
  • Often approaches the flower with the long tongue extended


  • Very different to the female
  • Largely brown with a dark tail (fresh specimens are gingery)
  • Often among the first bees of the year to emerge (may be late February)
  • Cream markings on face distinguish it from all bumblebees
  • Often hovers in front of flowers and when pursuing females

Similar species

  • The most likely species to be confused with Anthophora plumipes is the Common Carder-bee, Bombus pascuorum (the commonest of the gingery bumbles)
  • There is an extremely rare species, Anthophora retusa which could easily be confused with this BUT it is now absent from virtually the entire UK range of A. plumipes


More information on A. plumipes and an information sheet is available.

Submit a record online here

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Photos: Female and male Anthophora plumipes - Robin Williams