Sunday 19 May
Brown-banded carder bee (Bombus humilis)
What’s the World’s Favourite Species?Find out here.
Brown-banded carder bee fact file
- Find out more
- Print factsheet
Brown-banded carder bee description
The brown-banded carder bee B. humilis is one of the 24 species of bumblebee or cuckoo bee found in the UK. It is also one of the most endangered. This tawny coloured species has a characteristic brown band on the upper surface of the abdomen, hence the common name. Three 'castes' occur within bumblebee nests, a 'queen' (the reproductive female), 'workers' (non-reproductive females) and males. All three castes are broadly similar in appearance, but males can be distinguished as they lack stings and have longer antennae than females. Many people find bumblebees difficult to tell apart and are therefore surprised to discover there are so many species.
- Queen length: 16 - 18 mm
- Worker length: 10 - 15 mm
Brown-banded carder bee biology
The brown-banded carder bee nests on the surface of the ground, usually in grass tussocks. Bees forage for pollen and nectar throughout the summer months, from May to September. The colonies last for a year, with new queens hibernating through the winter and establishing new colonies the following year.Top
Brown-banded carder bee range
The brown-banded carder bee was once considered quite widespread in Britain. It is now very local in most of its former range but is still relatively common in the south of England and in South Wales. It is also found throughout Europe.Top
Brown-banded carder bee habitat
B. humilis is associated with flower-rich meadows that support species with long corollas such as vetches, clovers, dead-nettles and the red bartsia.Top
Brown-banded carder bee status
Classified as Rare in Britain.Top
Brown-banded carder bee threats
The main threat to this species is thought to be the loss of the flower-rich grassland and the intensity of modern farming methods. Many of their favoured food plants have become scarce, and with farmers now cultivating right to the edges of the field, places to construct nests have all but disappeared. Hedgerows too, as well as being in short supply, are cut back so regularly that they have ceased to be safe nesting sites.Top
Brown-banded carder bee conservation
There are five species of bumble and carder bee included on the UK Biodiversity Action Plans, although one, Bombus ruderatus, has still not been positively identified by entomologists as a distinct species. All are also listed in English Nature's Species Recovery Programme. There has been an increasingly vigorous campaign in recent years to raise the public's awareness of the disappearance of our bumblebees. The insects enjoy a good relationship with human beings and, for many, their buzzing induces a nostalgia for summer days long past.
The Action Plans for bumblebees are linked, sensibly enough, with those for many of the threatened plants, which used to populate field boundaries and meadows where the bees obtained their food. It is hoped that some of the proposed changes to the Common Agricultural Policy will benefit many of the species associated with Britain's agricultural regions. In the meantime, there are other projects aiming to help our threatened bees. English Nature has worked with seed companies to develop a wildflower mix, which contains seed from many of the species that bees prefer to feed from. These include red clover, bird's-foot trefoil and several knapweed species. This mixture is now approved for use in Countryside Stewardship Schemes, and farmers are also being encouraged to take up grants to improve the lot of bumblebees. The advantages to the farmer of having these insects around are many. These include their importance in pollinating pea and bean crops, bumblebees' ability to operate at lower temperatures than honeybees, and their considerable popularity with the public.
Oxford University Museum is tackling the problem of bee nesting sites by promoting the use of boxes for those species that frequent domestic gardens. Cultivated flowers can offer a lifeline to many bees, and the additional protection afforded by semi-cultivated gardens is obvious. Bees, however, have no shortage of support amongst the public, and may be able to stage a come-back so that our fields and country lanes will once again simmer with their drowsy buzzing.Top
Find out more
Information supplied by English Nature.
- Pair of sensory structures on the head of invertebrates.
- In social insect colonies, a group of individuals that are structurally and/ or behaviourally distinct, performing certain tasks. Examples are the soldier caste of termites and ants, and the workers of bees.
- The petals of a flower considered as a group or unit.
- A winter survival strategy characteristic of some mammals in which an animal's metabolic rate slows down and a state of deep sleep is attained. Whilst hibernating, animals survive on stored reserves of fat that they have accumulated in summer. In insects, the correct term for hibernation is 'diapause', a temporary pause in development and growth. Any stage of the lifecycle (eggs, larvae, pupae or adults) may enter diapause, which is typically associated with winter.
MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.
Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials
Copyright in this website and materials contained on this website (Material) belongs to Wildscreen or its licensors.
Visitors to this website (End Users) are entitled to:
- view the contents of, and Material on, the website;
- download and retain copies of the Material on their personal systems in digital form in low resolution for their own personal use;
- teachers, lecturers and students may incorporate the Material in their educational material (including, but not limited to, their lesson plans, presentations, worksheets and projects) in hard copy and digital format for use within a registered educational establishment, provided that the integrity of the Material is maintained and that copyright ownership and authorship is appropriately acknowledged by the End User.
End Users shall not copy or otherwise extract, alter or manipulate Material other than as permitted in these Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials.
Additional use of flagged material
Green flagged material
Certain Material on this website (Licence 4 Material) displays a green flag next to the Material and is available for not-for-profit conservation or educational use. This material may be used by End Users, who are individuals or organisations that are in our opinion not-for-profit, for their not-for-profit conservation or not-for-profit educational purposes. Low resolution, watermarked images may be copied from this website by such End Users for such purposes. If you require high resolution or non-watermarked versions of the Material, please contact Wildscreen with details of your proposed use.
Creative commons material
Certain Material on this website has been licensed to Wildscreen under a Creative Commons Licence. These images are clearly marked with the Creative Commons buttons and may be used by End Users only in the way allowed by the specific Creative Commons Licence under which they have been submitted. Please see http://creativecommons.org for details.
Any other use
Please contact the copyright owners directly (copyright and contact details are shown for each media item) to negotiate terms and conditions for any use of Material other than those expressly permitted above. Please note that many of the contributors to ARKive are commercial operators and may request a fee for such use.
Save as permitted above, no person or organisation is permitted to incorporate any copyright material from this website into any other work or publication in any format (this includes but is not limited to: websites, Apps, CDs, DVDs, intranets, extranets, signage, digital communications or on printed materials for external or other distribution). Use of the Material for promotional, administrative or for-profit purposes is not permitted.