The early bumble bee, Bombus pratorum

This is the fourth bee I hope to have identified although by trying to identify bumble bees I am going where angels fear to tread.  I never realised how difficult it is to identify bumble bees because their colouration, at once so distinctive can also be variable intra species and confusing interspecies because of similarities between the species.  It is safer to identify them just as bumble bees but I hope I am safe with this one.

Bombus pratorum 28.2.13


Bombus pratorum is usually the first bumble bee to start nesting.  I took this photograph on the 28 February 2013.  It was a cool spring and I think this was a young queen.

Bombus pratorum 26.3.13


Outside the garden I see them on red dead nettle ( Lamium purpureum).  I find the workers very fast flying and difficult to photograph and I do not have a good photograph of a male – yet.



Inside the garden they frequent the Lamiastrum and ..



the Cerinthe.

I have started to read “The Humble-Bee” by F.W.L. Sladen for the second time.  The first time I read it too quickly because I was enjoying it too much – despite the fact that I had purchased a cheap paperback edition as I had not got much expectations of the readability of a book first published in 1892.  Now I am savouring my new hardback edition with colour plates.   I am very much in awe of Sladen who had worked all this out before he was sixteen and I am struggling to upload the information he presents to me ready packaged.

Sladen notes that the colonies break up in July.  I tend not to see them in the garden before that so perhaps as the spring progresses they have more wild flowers to forage outside of the garden.

Sladen notes that he has seen them as late as September in a garden at Ripple, England.



I see them for the last time here in France as late as October.


5 thoughts on “The early bumble bee, Bombus pratorum

  1. I’m seeing many yellow-faced bumblebees here, (Oregon Coast) I know what you mean about trying to identify them. To get photos, I’ll shoot a video than use a frame. The bumbles are visiting the blooming heather. My log hive bees were flying today, bringing back orange pollen, but where they are getting it is a mystery to me…maybe gorse.


    • I don’t use my video function much so I am not too skilled with it but you are right. It would be a good record for behaviour and I will try this year. My photographs of honey bees on gorse over here show them with a dull, deep orange pollen so it could be gorse. The yellow-faced bumble bees look delightful but that will be one I’ll not see 😦


  2. If you want to learn about bumble bees I suggest you get a copy of the New Naturalist volume Bumblebees by Ted Benton. Read anything you can get your hands on by him. For example the much smaller volume, The Bumblebees of Essex published by Lopinga Books has a lot of useful stuff in it.


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