Common throughout the UK, apart from the far north. Has a distinctive velvety black body and dark orange, almost crimson tail. Red-tailed Bumblebees tend to bleach in the sun and fade as they age, which can make identification more difficult.
Queens are large and robust with short, velvety hair and a dark orange-red tail.
Workers are very similar but smaller.
Males have an orange-red tail and also have a yellow collar and facial hair.
About the bee
– black body
– orange-red tail
– males have yellow colouring
– Queen: 17mm
– Worker: 12mm
– Male: 12mm
– Short (6mm)
Usually underground or at the base of stone walls.
Variable, often large (up to 300 workers)
Map and flight periods
Red-tailed Cuckoo Bee females are similar in size and shape, but have sparser hairs, with a black, shiny body visible beneath. They also lack pollen baskets, and have dark, smoky-grey wings. Males have no yellow facial hair.
The Red-shanked Carder Bee is less common, rounder and fluffier. Queens and workers have fine red hairs either side of the pollen baskets. Males may have grey/yellow bands on the thorax, and have black rather than yellow facial hair.
Early Bumblebee queens, workers and males all have yellow bands behind their heads, similar to that of the male Red-tailed Bumblebee, but this species is smaller and fluffier in appearance. The Bilberry Bumblebee has similar colouring to the male Red-tailed Bumblebee, but the red tail extends much further up the abdomen. This species is scarcer and more likely to be found on moorland habitat.
The Red-shanked Carder Bee is less common, rounder and fluffier. Queens and workers have fine red hairs either side of the pollen baskets. Males may have grey/yellow bands on the thorax, but no yellow facial hair.