Buff-tailed bumblebees are the UK's largest bumblebee species. The queen is the only one that has the buff-coloured tail, the workers all have white tails. The queen emerges in the spring after hibernating through the winter, and goes looking for a nest site. At the height of its success, a buff-tailed bumblebee colony may contain 150 workers.
Scientific name: Bombus terrestris
Large earth bumblebee
The life and death of a bumble bee colony.
David Attenborough describes life at the heart of the hive, exploring the fascinating world of the bee colony. This is one of nature's most highly organised and well constructed ways of life. It's a life cycle story that has provided a rich thematic backdrop to many a work of fiction exploring the nature of humanity and society.
Thermal cameras show how bumblebees leave a warm glow.
New camera technologies have enabled scientists and film-makers to study and reveal the secret inner workings of animals' lives. Here, a thermal camera shows the mechanical technique used by a chilly bumblebee to get to a flight-ready temperature. The camera then also shows how heat from the bumblebee is left behind in the flowers visited by the hot-bodied bee.
The following habitats are found across the Buff-tailed bumblebee distribution range. Find out more about these environments, what it takes to live there and what else inhabits them.
Discover what these behaviours are and how different plants and animals use them.
Additional data source: Animal Diversity Web
Bombus terrestris, the buff-tailed bumblebee or large earth bumblebee is one of the most numerous bumblebee species in Europe. The queen is 2–2.7 cm long, while the workers are 1½–2 cm. The latter are characterized by their white-ended abdomens and look (apart from their yellowish bands being darker in direct comparison) just like those of the white-tailed bumblebee, B. lucorum, a close relative. The queens of B. terrestris have the namesake buff-white abdomen ("tail") tip; this area is white like in the workers in B. lucorum.
Such bees can navigate their way back to the nest from a distance as far away as 13 kilometres (8.1 mi), although most forage within 5 km from their nest.
Take a trip through the natural world with our themed collections of video clips from the natural history archive.
Bees are amazing - not only do they fulfil a vital role in our ecosystem, they are one of the most complex and sophisticated living things in the history of evolution.
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