Large Garden Bumblebee - Bombus ruderatus


A large bumblebee with a very long tongue, which is often held outstretched as the bee approaches a flower. Separating B. ruderatus and its close relative B. hortorum is very difficult, and there is considerable variability in the extent and brightness of the colour bands and the tail colour. However all-black (including tail) specimens are most likely to be B. ruderatus (named as variety harrisellus). 

Identification difficulty
Recording advice

Unless identified by a recognised expert, a photo is required and the specimen should be examined with a microscope. In the comments box, state the key or ID method used and describe the size and identifying characters.


Modern populations appear to have become centred on extensive river-valley systems in southern and central England, where it forages at plants such as Comfrey, Yellow Iris and Marsh Woundwort. However, it has recently shown a great liking for the legume-dominated ‘Pollen and Nectar Margins’ being promoted as part of Agri-environment programmes. Following the establishment of these mixtures it has re-appeared in a number of localities.

When to see it

Queens emerge from hibernation from April to June; workers are present from May, and males and new females from July to October. The colony cycle of this species is slightly later than that of is congener B. hortorum.

Life History

In addition to the foraging plants mentioned above it is one of the three species found visiting very deep blooms such as Foxglove and Honeysuckle (the others being B. pascuorum and B. hortorum).

UK Status

In Britain it is much more southerly than Bombus hortorum in its distribution and is considered to be in major decline. It is classed as Nationally Scarce B.

VC55 Status

Status in Leicestershire and Rutland not known.

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Leicestershire & Rutland Map


Yellow squares = NBN records (all known data)
Coloured circles = NatureSpot records: 2020+ | 2015-2019 | pre-2015

UK Map