Bombus lapidarius (Linnaeus,1758)

Description and notes

A very distinctive bumblebee with extensive red marking over the last quarter of the abdomen and no yellow bands on the thorax of the females; males have the red tail and (usually) extensive yellow markings on the face and thorax. Confusion with the much rarer B. ruderarius is possible as the basic colour pattern is similar. However, the abdomen of the female B. ruderarius is approximately circular in outline, whilst that of B. lapidarius is distinctly elongate. The corbicular hairs of female B. lapidarius are black, not orange as in B. ruderarius. The males of B. lapidarius are generally brighter in colour and the genitalia are very different.


Widely distributed throughout Britain and Ireland. This species has been extending its range into northern Scotland in recent decades (M Macdonald, pers. comm.)

Status (in Britain only)

This bee is not regarded as being scarce or threatened.


Associated with a wide range of habitats, being one of the bumblebees regularly encountered in gardens as well as the open countryside and woodland.

Flight period

The species is eusocial, with queens emerging from hibernation in March, workers present from April onwards, and males and new females from July to early October.

Pollen collected

The species is polylectic.

Nesting biology

Nests are underground and are started in old mammal nests. Populations are large, with between 100 and 300 workers. The life-cycle is long, about 5 or 6 months. The species is remarkable for its use of ‘traditional’ hibernation sites, which are north-facing banks, usually within open woodland. Large numbers of queens use these sites year after year.

Flowers visited

There are no clear flower-visiting preferences for this species, although it is reputed to be fond of visiting yellow flowers.


This species is attacked by the socially parasitic bee Bombus rupestris.

Author of profile

M Edwards.