Common carder bee

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Common carder bee
Bombus pascuorum female 2 (aka).jpg
Bombus pascuorum (male) - Medicago x varia - Keila.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Apidae
Genus: Bombus
Subgenus: Thoracobombus
Species: B. pascuorum
Binomial name
Bombus pascuorum
(Scopoli, 1763)
  • Apis pascuorum Scopoli, 1763
  • Apis senilis Fabricius, 1775
  • Apis agrorum Fabricius, 1787, non Schrank, 1781
  • Bombus thoracicus Spinola, 1806
  • Bombus arcticus Dahlbom, 1832, non Quenzel, 1832
  • Bombus cognatus Stephens, 1846
  • Bombus smithianus White, 1851

The common carder bee (Bombus pascuorum) is a species of bumblebee present in most of Europe in a wide variety of habitats such as meadows, pastures, waste ground, ditches and embankments, roads, and field margins, as well as gardens and parks in urban areas and forests and forest edges.

These bees reach a body length of 15–18 mm (0.59–0.71 in)(queen), 9–15 mm (0.35–0.59 in)(worker) and 12–14 mm (0.47–0.55 in) (drone). Their wingspan is 28–32 mm (1.1–1.3 in) (queen), 20–28 mm (0.79–1.10 in) (worker) and 24–27 mm (0.94–1.06 in) (drone).

The thorax is yellowish or reddish-brown. The first four abdominal segments have grayish hair, while the fifth and sixth tergite hairs are yellowish or reddish brown. However, the species is quite variable in color.

The head is medium long, and the snout is long, reaching lengths of 13–15 mm (0.51–0.59 in) (queen), 12–13 mm (0.47–0.51 in) (worker) and 10–11 mm (0.39–0.43 in) (drone).

Queens appear between early April and mid-May, and workers appear at the end of April/early May to mid-October. Young queens and drones can be found from mid-August to late October. When queens search for suitable places to nest, they fly just above the vegetation, for example on forest edges, investigating cavities such as holes in the ground or niches in dead wood and grass. The nests can be constructed above or under ground, preferably in old mouse nests, but also in bird nests, barns, and sheds.

Nest-building proceeds as follows. The queen collects moss and grass to form a small, hollow sphere whose walls are partly bonded with wax and sealed off. Within this is formed a large bowl of brown wax of about 5 mm in diamter, which is filled with pollen. Thereafter, five to 15 eggs are deposited, and the cell closed. Another 20-mm-high cup is then filled with nectar, thus serving as its own food reserve for bad weather days. After three to five days, the larvae hatch to feed on the pollen. After about a week, the larvae are mature.

The adult worker bees, owing to the initially poor supply situation, are relatively small, reaching only about half the body length of the queen and lacking functioning ovaries. Later-hatching bees are much larger. The additional nesting and brood care is dedicated solely to the queen, which no longer leaves the nest. From August, rarely before, the first fully developed females, together with drones, are ready. Drones hatch from unfertilized eggs.

In August the B. pascuorum nest, with a diameter of up to 15–20 cm (5.9–7.9 in), reaches a maximum population size from 60 to 150 individuals. Shortly after this peak, the population quickly decreases. With the queen the entire nest dies, usually in September. Occasionally, individuals survive until October/November. Only the last-hatched females survive, to mate with males. Then they fly in search of a safe place for hibernation.

This polylectic bee feeds on a variety wild flowers, including nettles (Urticaceae), genuine motherwort (Lamiaceae), Himalayan balsam (Balsaminaceae), cabbage thistle, knapweed (Asteraceae), vetches, red and white clover (Fabaceae), monkshood (Ranunculaceae), fruit trees, etc.



  1. ^ Paul Williams. "Thoracobombus annotated checklist". Bombus: bumblebees of the world. Natural History Museum. Retrieved 18 June 2010.