Although this Moss Carder Bumblebee (Bombus Muscorum) all-ginger species is rare, it is widespread throughout the United Kingdom, but, it shows itself more commonly around coastal regions in the south, north and west.
The Moss Carder Bee displays a huge love for Clover, Red Bartsia and Knapweed over any other type of flower and so can be more easily spotted in open grassland areas where these plant species are abundant. Consequently, they tend to nest in these zones too and snuggle their colony (housing between 40 to 120 workers) into a patch of thick vegetation with a bit of moss to go over the top (hence the English name).
Each of the three castes (workers, males and queens) displays a bright ginger thorax and lighter ginger (sometimes even a cream tone) on their abdomen. Those who have recently emerged will have a yellow tint to their abdomen colour. You will notice that their hair is reminiscent of velvet since it is so short and tightly compacted.
To determine the male Moss Carder Bee from the workers and queens, you should take a look at their faces. If they are male, they will have white hairs here.
Distribution and Habitat
Moss Carder Bees are found throughout the UK, inhabiting a range of different habitats and nesting sites including moors, grasslands, and salt marshes. These bees prefer to build their nests above ground in open landscapes near coastal areas, making them well-suited to thrive in the lowland regions of the British Isles. Despite being a relatively small species, moss carder bees are able to form colonies of up to 120 workers, making them powerful pollinators. Overall, moss carder bees are an important part of the UK’s natural ecosystem and play an essential role in maintaining healthy habitats and populations across the country. However, this species is alarmingly declining in population since 1970.
Due to the above, the three of them are easy to separate from the other UK species of bumblebees. However, the Great yellow bumblebee (Bombus distinguendus) and Field cuckoo bumblebee (Bombus campestris) can be a single colour all over but, since these are yellow, it is uncomplicated to distinguish them.
It may come as no surprise then that the ginger types are much harder to tell apart from each other. The darker abdominal band is not even a tell-tale sign for marking out the species! Of course, males can be identified by their genital capsules.