Known as a member of the ‘Big 7’ most abundant species of bumblebee across the UK, it sports a red tail which is commonly confused with the very similar Red-tailed bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius). However, the extent and richness of the red tail on the Early bumblebee is always distinctly smaller and has more of a burnt orange hue.
The workers of this species tend to lose their yellow abdominal stripe, or it is very much reduced. On the other hand, the males are usually massively yellow and even sport yellow facial hairs too. These have been confused with the Bilberry bumblebee (Bombus monticola) and the male versions of the Red-tailed bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius) but looking out for the red tails is a great distinguishing feature between them. Once you know what you are looking for, you will easily be able to tell them apart since the Early bee (Bombus pratorum) is relatively small when compared with other species.
From February onwards (hence the English name), the Bombus Pratorum can be found all across the UK in meadows, parks and gardens. Places where Lavender, Sage, Thistles, Daisies, White Clover and Cotoneaster grow, will be the most abundant spots to see these guys since they forage on these flowers. The queens, however, tend to flock to Rhododendrons more.
The Early bumblebee (Bombus pratorum) nests (sometimes seen in bird boxes, old nests and tree holes) only last around 14 weeks — decidedly shorter than other types of bumblebee nests. Although to make up for this, they can produce two to three colonies each year because when the new queen starts to reign, she immediately begins the nest and does not hibernate. Once over, the nest will have housed any number of individuals from 50 to even 120!