The common carder bumblebee

Posted: Friday 4 October 2013
by Kate Bradbury

Little, shaggy-haired and ginger, the common carder, Bombus pascuorum, is one of my favourite bumblebees.

Over the last few weeks the number of bumblebee species in my garden has gradually diminished. Now, while most nests have expired and the daughter queens have long entered hibernation ready to start new nests next year, the common carder is still on the wing.

Little, shaggy-haired and ginger, the common carder, Bombus pascuorum, is one of my favourite bumblebees. With a medium to long tongue, it feeds on flowers with longer corollas such as red clover, honeysuckle and foxglove, and it seems to be particularly fond of white deadnettle.

Now in my garden, half-bald raggedy workers are taking nectar and pollen from anything they can access: the last of the honeysuckle, salvia, passion flower and the odd Japanese anemone. Their nests can go on as late as November, so, for these tired bees, every autumn flower counts.

Unlike many bumblebee species, the common carder nests above ground, typically –according to the books – in tussocky grass. I’ve never found them in tussocky grass. Last year my friends had a nest under bamboo leaf litter in their front garden, and a couple of years ago some were nesting in the compost heap on my dad’s allotment. FWL Slade, who wrote The Humble Bee in 1912, notes “I have found nests in the thatch of a cow-lodge, in a tuft of pampas grass, in the grubbed-up stump of a tree, in a robin’s nest, in an old shoe, and in a decayed and broken kettle.”

Tussocky grass isn’t a common feature of our gardens, even less-well manicured ones like mine. Perhaps their success can be partly attributed to their adaptability to nest in broken kettles, beneath bamboo leaves and in our compost bins.

Over the next few weeks, the number of common carders will gradually diminish in my garden. I wonder when I will see the last one, and when I will see the first fluffy queen in spring.

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Talkback: The common carder bumblebee
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oldchippy 04/10/2013 at 18:03

Hi Kate it's been a good year for bumblebee's ,I saw my first Ladybird's of the year on Wednesday,I have an over wintering butterfly in the garage,all come to late maybe next year will be better for wildlife!!

Kate Bradbury 19/11/2013 at 12:19

Let's hope so Oldchippy!