Bumblebees are social insects that live in colonies. All the members of the colony are the offspring of a single fertile female – the queen.

Bumblebee colonies survive for just one summer. Only the queens, fertilized the previous summer, survive the winter hibernation and start new colonies in the spring. For successful hibernation queens need to select relatively dry and cool sites; these conditions are often satisfied in north facing, well drained banks into which the queens are able to burrow without being tempted out by a warm winter sun.
There were 25 species of bumble bee in Britain but sadly three species are already extinct and others are close to extinction. All are threatened one way or another - which is why we must continue to preserve their habitat and do everything we can to make bristol a bee friendly city!


Common Carder Bee - Bombus pascuorum

Gingery-brown colour all over; long-tongued; males and workers similar. Nests on the ground’s surface. Commonly seen on flowers late in the year, even in November. Found in gardens, farmland, woodland, health-land. Colonies are small, and generally mild-tempered if disturbed.

Red Tailed Bumblebee - Bombus lapidarius

Very common on chalk downland. Also prevalent in gardens. A short-tongued bee. Usually nests under the surface of the ground; colonies often large. Distinguished from the much rarer Red Shanked Carder Bee by presence of black hairs on hind legs.

Early Bumblebee - Bombus pratorum

A small bee. Face longer than it is wide. Females sometimes lack the yellow band on the abdomen. Found in gardens, farmland, woodland glades and edges. Nests usually below the ground. Colonies are short-lived, with males appearing as early as April. Rarely seen in late Summer.

Buff Tailed Bumblebee - Bombus terrestris

Found in gardens, farmland, woodland, grassland, heathland. Queens are large, commonly seen in early Spring. Nests below ground; large colonies; can be aggressive if disturbed. Workers have large white tail, usually with a hint of buff close to the black band. Males have all-buff tail. Wide-faced. Yellow bands slightly darker than in the White Tailed Bumblebee.

White Tailed Bumblebee - Bombus lucorum

A common, short-tongued bee, often nesting under garden sheds. Found in gardens, farmland, woodland, grassland, heathland, uplands, marshes, bogs. Distinguished from the similar Buff Tailed Bumblebee by pure white tails and lemon yellow bands. Face wider than it is long.

Garden Bumblebee - Bombus hortorum

Very long-tongued species preferring flowers like foxgloves. Found in gardens, farmland, woodland, heathland. Nests below ground. Less common in late Summer. Distinguished from smaller Heath Bumblebee by its much-longer face. Males and workers similar.