Scientific name: Bombus lapidarius
The Red-tailed Bumblebee is nearly all black with an orange-red coloured tail. Like the more common Bombus terrestris, it lives in a colony of about 100 to 200. The queen is the largest member of the colony at about 30mm long and the workers are much smaller with early ones about the size of a house fly; although they have similar colouring. The nest is usually under large stones or in dry-stone walls.
They have a relatively short tongue and prefer to land on the flower to feed rather than on the wing.
After winter hibernation the queen seeks out a suitable nesting site and starts a new colony with the fertilized eggs she is carrying - feeding them with nectar and pollen placed in pots made from wax. The first brood of female workers are infertile and emerge to raise further broods from the remaining eggs the queen continues to lay, feeding them on pollen and nectar which they bring to the nest. Later broods have males which can collect nectar, but do not have pollen baskets - they have tufts of yellow hairs on the head and upper body. Near the end of the season they leave to find females from other colonies to mate. Only fertilized females hibernate and the males are not permitted back into the nest so they soon die, as do the workers and old queen when the first frosts occur.
As with B. terrestris there is a Cuckoo Bumblebee which targets the Red-tailed Bumblebee by laying eggs in place of the host - the species is B. rupestris (previously known as Psithyrus rupestris)
See also the monographs on the Honeybee and Bumble Bee
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