Brown-banded carder bee

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Brown-banded carder bee
Bombus humilis Illiger, 1806.jpg
Brown-banded carder bee
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Apidae
Subfamily: Apinae
Genus: Bombus
Species: B. humilis
Binomial name
Bombus humilis
Illiger, 1806
  • Megabombus humilis

The brown-banded carder bee (Bombus humilis) is a bumblebee found in most of Europe west of Russia, with the exception of Ireland and Iceland. It is also found in Turkey,[1] on the Tibetan plateau and in northern China.[2] In Britain, it is limited to the coast and chalkland areas of southern England.[3] The brown-banded carder bee is similar in appearance to the moss carder bee. As they share similar habitats, care must be taken to distinguish between the two.[4]


The brown-banded carder bee is medium-sized with a relatively long tongue.[5] The queen is 16–18 mm (0.63–0.71 in) long, the worker 10–15 mm (0.39–0.59 in).[6]

The thorax is usually yellow-orange on top, with beige flanks, but may be dark brown. Most of the abdomen is beige, too, although with a somewhat striped effect. Both queens (the reproductive females) and workers usually have a broad, dark brown band (hence the common name) on the upper side of the abdomen, near the front, although it can be missing on some workers.[7] A few black hairs - may only be one or two – are present on the thorax near the wing-bases.[8] Males are similar to queens, but they lack stings and have longer antennae.[6]

Colony Cycle[edit]

Its flight period lasts from about May to September. The queen emerges from hibernation in the spring and makes a nest on the surface of the ground, preferable among grass tufts.[6] The size of the nest is quite small, usually less than 100 inhabitants.[9]


The brown-banded carder bee favours vast grasslands.[9] In Central Asia, it is an alpine species, living at altitudes of 3,000–3,900 m (9,800–12,800 ft).[2] Among the plants visited are Trifolium pratense (red clover), Centaurea (knapweed) and Vicia (vetches).[9]


The brown-banded carder bee is threatened by habitat loss due to intensive farming.[6] As Goulson, Hanley, Darvill, Ellis, and Knight have pointed out, a contributing factor in the northern part of its distribution (including Britain) is that B. humilis, being near the edge of its latitudinal range, is not well adapted to local conditions, so is sensitive to habitat changes, especially loss of unimproved grassland meadows.[5]


  1. ^ Discover Life. "Discover Life map of Bombus humilis". Retrieved 16 February 2009. 
  2. ^ a b Paul Williams; Ya Tang; Jian Yao & Sydney Cameron (2008). "The bumblebees of Sichuan (Hymenoptera: Apidae, Bombini)". Systematics and Biodiversity. 7 (2): 101–189. doi:10.1017/S1477200008002843. 
  3. ^ "Less Common Species of Bumblebee". Retrieved 16 February 2009. 
  4. ^ Saunders, Patrick (2008). "Bombus muscorum and Bombus humilis in the South West in 2008". Hymettus. 
  5. ^ a b D. Goulson; M. E. Hanley; B. Darvill; J. S. Ellis; M. E. Knight (2005). "Causes of rarity in bumblebees" (PDF). Biological Conservation. 122: 1–8. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2004.06.017. 
  6. ^ a b c d ARKive – Images of life on earth. "Brown-banded carder bee". Retrieved 16 February 2009. 
  7. ^ Holmström, Göran (2007). Humlor - alla Sveriges arter (Bumble-bees - all the species of Sweden) (in Swedish). Östlings Bokförlag Symposion. pp. 116–117. ISBN 978-91-7139-776-8. 
  8. ^ Worcestershire Biological Record
  9. ^ a b c "BAP Newsletter Aug06" (pdf). BIODIVERSITY ACTION. Herefordshire Biodiversity Partnership. August 2006. p. 3. Retrieved 18 February 2009.