Bees are vital to the gardener, pollinating our flowers, fruit and vegetables. Yet many species are now declining thanks to the combined assaults of habitat loss and use of pesticides. Browse our gallery of some of the more common bee species likely to visit your garden, and see which ones you recognise.
Red-tailed bumblebee, Bombus lapidarius
The red-tailed bumblebee is a common garden bumblebee, nesting in holes in the ground and in walls. Queens and workers have a black thorax and abdomen, with a red ‘tail’. Males also have a yellow band on the thorax. They feed from a wide variety of flowers, including this echinacea, pictured, and seem to have a preference for yellow blooms.
Southern cuckoo bumblebee, Bombus vestalis
Cuckoo bumblebees invade existing nests, kill the queen and assume the role of new queen. Cuckoo bumblebees have darker wings and a longer, pointed tail than regular bumblebees. The southern cuckoo bee, Bombus vestalis, invades the nests of buff-tailed bumblebees. It has a yellow band on the thorax and two on the abdomen, and a white tail.
White-tailed bumblebee, Bombus lucorum
The white-tailed bumblebee has a single yellow band on the thorax and another on the abdomen, and a white tail. As well as not having pollen baskets on their legs and yellow facial hair, male white-tailed bumblebees are incredibly fluffy, with the abdominal yellow band appearing to bleed into the thorax. Here an echinacea flower is shared by a male white-tailed bumblebee (top) and a female white-tailed bumblebee (bottom).
Early bumblebee, Bombus pratorum
The early bumblebee is a small species, which starts nesting a few weeks before most other bumblebees. Queens and workers have a yellow band on the thorax and another on the abdomen, and an orange tail. Males, like this one pictured, have yellow facial hair and no pollen baskets.
Garden bumblebee, Bombus hortorum
The garden bumblebee is a large species with an incredibly long tongue. Often, as it comes to land on a flower you can see it unfurl its tongue ready to forage for nectar, as seen here as it comes into land on an iris. It has two yellow bands on the thorax and one on the abdomen, however the band on the lower part of the thorax and the upper part of the abdomen can, at first glance, appear to be the same band.
Common carder bumblebee, Bombus pascuorum
The common carder bumblebee is gingery brown all over, with black abdominal hairs. It has quite a long tongue, enabling it to feed from flowers with long corollas, such as this phacelia. Nests last for a long time and often continue until the first frosts.
Honeybee, Apis mellifera
The honeybee is slimmer than bumblebees and has a largely hairless, striped abdomen. There are many subspecies farmed in the UK, which range in colour from nearly black to bright orange. While wild colonies still exist, most are farmed by beekeepers in hives.