How to identify spring bees
White-tailed or buff-tailed? Our guide will help you recognise 12 early-emerging bee species - many of which are common in gardens.
Illustrations by Felicity Rose Cole
1. (Above) White-tailed bumblebee (queen) Bombus lucorum
Medium-sized; single yellow bands on thorax and abdomen; white tail. Often the earliest active bumblebee.
2. Andrena bicolor
Small, dark solitary bee with orange thorax. Feeds from gorse, dandelions, forget-me-nots and garden flowers.
3. Tawny mining bee Andrena fulva
Solitary bee with orange ‘fur’. Female often seen excavating nest chambers on garden lawns. Likes dandelions.
4. Early mining bee Andrena praecox
Medium-sized, brownish solitary bee. Males fly up and down tree trunks to find females. Likes willow catkins.
5. Andrena clarkella
Large solitary bee with orange thorax and orange-haired pollen sacs. Likes sallow catkins and flowering shrubs.
6. Andrena flavipes
Medium-sized solitary bee with white bands on abdomen and yellow hairs on pollen sacs. Nests in loose groups.
7. Osmia bicolor
Medium-sized, furry solitary bee with black thorax and bright red abdomen. Often in chalk or limestone areas.
8. Hairy-footed (feather-footed) flower bee Anthophora plumipes
Largish solitary bee. Female (top) black; male gingery. Likes lungwort.
9. Tree bumblebee (queen) Bombus hypnorum
Medium-sized; ginger thorax, black body and white tail. Arrived in UK in 2000 and now abundant in gardens.
10. Buff-tailed bumblebee (queen) Bombus terrestris
Large and dark; single yellow bands on thorax and abdomen; buffish tail. Nests in grass and old mouse nests.
11. Early bumblebee (queen) Bombus pratorum
Small for a bumblebee; single yellow bands on thorax and abdomen (latter may be absent); orange tail.
12. Red-tailed bumblebee (queen) Bombus lapidarius
Large and dark, with fiery orange tail. Likes flowers such as dandelion, and white and red dead-nettles.