Vestal cuckoo bumblebee

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Vestal cuckoo bumblebee
Bumblebee January 2008-4.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Apidae
Genus: Bombus
Subgenus: Psithyrus
Species: B. vestalis
Binomial name
Bombus vestalis
Geoffroy, 1785[1]

The vestal cuckoo bumblebee (Bombus vestalis) is a species of cuckoo bumblebee that lives in most of Europe, including North Africa and western Asia.[2] Its usual host is Bombus terrestris (the buff-tailed bumblebee).


The queen is a large bumblebee with a length up to 21 mm (0.83 in) and a wingspan of 37 mm (1.5 in);[3] the male is considerably smaller (16 mm (0.63 in)). The bumblebee is predomninantly black, with an orange collar. The third tergite has a border of yellow hairs, and the hairs on the fifth tergite are mostly white. The males are similar to the females, but smaller and with longer antennae.[4]

It is similar in appearance to another cuckoo bumblebee, Bombus bohemicus, but is distinguishable by either the length of the antennal segments or dissection and comparison of the genitalia. In B. vestalis, the fifth antennal segment will be the same length as the third and fourth together.[5]


The bumblebee is common from North Africa in the south to southern Sweden in the north, and from Britain in the west to northern Iran in the east.[2] It is common throughout England and Wales, but has only been sighted in Scotland since 2009.[4] Using data from the National Biodiversity Network gateway, B. vestalis apparently is most prominent in south-east England.[6]


B. vestalis is a cuckoo bumblebee; it does not construct any nest of its own, but usurps the nest of Bombus terrestris, kills the host queen, and lets the host workers raise its offspring.[3] The male bumblebees often congregate in gardens in the suburbs.[7]

The queen emerges early in the spring; the males emerge later, in late May to early June. Its food sources are flowering plants such as clover (males especially often visit white clover), tufted vetch, knapweed, and others. In the spring, the emerging queens frequently fly to flowers such as deadnettles, sallows, blackthorns, and dandelions.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ ITIS Report
  2. ^ a b Pierre Rasmont. "Bombus (Psithyrus) vestalis (Fourcroy, 1785)". Université de Mons. Retrieved 5 January 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c Benton, Ted (2006). "Chapter 9: The British Species". Bumblebees. London, UK: HarperCollins Publishers. pp. 403–406. ISBN 0007174519. 
  4. ^ a b "Cuckoo bumblebees". Retrieved 5 January 2013. 
  5. ^ Vestal Cuckoo Bumblebee - Bombus vestalis NatureSpot
  6. ^ Grid map of records for Bombus (Psithyrus) vestalis National Biodiversity Network
  7. ^ "Bombus". Natural History Museum, London, UK. 2013. Retrieved 5 January 2013.