Quick facts

Common name: tree bumblebee

Scientific name: Bombus hypnorum

Family: Apidae (bees)

Habitat: woodland, parks and gardens, wider countryside

Diet: nectar

Predators: birds

Origin: native, but a recent arrival

What do tree bumblebees look like?

Tree bumblebees are one of the more straightforward bee species to recognise. The workers, males and larger queens are similarly patterned, all with tawny thoraxes, black abdomens and white tails.

What do tree bumblebees eat?

Foraging workers collect nectar and pollen to bring back to the nest. These bees are particularly drawn to downward hanging flowers like comfrey, but will also visit the flowers of fruit trees and shrubs (like bramble), cotoneaster, fuscia and other garden plants.

Tree bumblebee drone and queen mating on leaf

Credit: Naturepix / Alamy Stock Photo

How do tree bumblebees breed?

Queens are early risers and can be spotted from March on the lookout for places to nest. As the bee's name suggests, holes in trees are traditional nesting sites, but house eaves , loft insulation, compost heaps and bird boxes provide perfect alternatives.

Six weeks after the queen has established her nest, workers emerge and begin foraging for the rest of the colony. The colony grows and can remain active for five months, during which time males and young, unmated queens leave the nest.

Once mated, the new queens feed to fatten themselves up for hibernation. While the colony they were born into dies, these queens wait out the winter, emerging the following spring to set up colonies of their own.

Where do tree bumblebees live?

Tree bumblebees are new arrivals to the UK, thought to have begun colonising our shores after expanding their range elsewhere in Europe. They were first recorded in Wiltshire in 2001 and have since spread across England, Wales and parts of Scotland.

Did you know?

Queens have been known to evict blue tits from nest boxes in order to take them over.

Tree bumblebee collecting nectar from a bramble flower

Credit: Nature Photographers Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo

Signs and spotting tips

Look for worker bees visiting flowers in gardens throughout the spring and summer, or for queens investigating walls, fences or bird boxes in early spring.

Threats and conservation

This bee species has been quick to spread and colonise most of the UK as a natural new arrival. It is thought that the species is helping to boost dwindling numbers of valuable pollinators, and that they pose no threat or competition to other bumblebee species.

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