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.

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All illustrations by Felicity Rose Cole

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1. (Above) White-tailed bumblebee (queen) Bombus lucorum

Medium-sized; single yellow bands on thorax and abdomen; white tail. Often the earliest active bumblebee.

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2. Andrena bicolor

Small, dark solitary bee with orange thorax. Feeds from gorse, dandelions, forget-me-nots and garden flowers.

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3. Tawny mining bee Andrena fulva

Solitary bee with orange ‘fur’. Female often seen excavating nest chambers on garden lawns. Likes dandelions.

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4. Early mining bee Andrena praecox

Medium-sized, brownish solitary bee. Males fly up and down tree trunks to find females. Likes willow catkins.

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5. Andrena clarkella

Large solitary bee with orange thorax and orange-haired pollen sacs. Likes sallow catkins and flowering shrubs.

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6. Andrena flavipes

Medium-sized solitary bee with white bands on abdomen and yellow hairs on pollen sacs. Nests in loose groups.

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7. Osmia bicolor 

Medium-sized, furry solitary bee with black thorax and bright red abdomen. Often in chalk or limestone areas.

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8. Hairy-footed (feather-footed) flower bee Anthophora plumipes 

Largish solitary bee. Female (top) black; male gingery. Likes lungwort.

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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.

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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.

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11. Early bumblebee (queen) Bombus pratorum

Small for a bumblebee; single yellow bands on thorax and abdomen (latter may be absent); orange tail.

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12. Red-tailed bumblebee (queen) Bombus lapidarius

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Large and dark, with fiery orange tail. Likes flowers such as dandelion, and white and red dead-nettles.