The Red-Tailed Bumblebee (Bombus Lapidarius): A Comprehensive Guide

Last updated on September 20th, 2023 at 08:39 pm

The buzzing world of bees is vast and varied, with over 20,000 known species. Among these, the Red-Tailed Bumblebee, scientifically known as Bombus Lapidarius, stands out with its distinctive appearance and behaviour. In this guide, we’ll delve deep into the life of this fascinating bee, helping you identify and appreciate its unique characteristics.

1. Appearance: What Does the Red-Tailed Bumblebee Look Like?

It’s worth noting that there are a number of bumblebee species that may have a red tail and these include the red-tailed cuckoo bee as well as some mining bees.

  • Body: The Red-Tailed Bumblebee is a medium to large-sized bee. The queen, which is the largest, can measure up to 22mm.
  • Colour: As the name suggests, the bee has a striking red or orange tail. The rest of its body is primarily black, with some older workers occasionally displaying a faded or worn appearance.
  • Wings: Their wings are dark and slightly smoky in appearance.

2. Habitat: Where Does the Red-Tailed Bumblebee Live?

  • Location: These bees are widespread across Europe and parts of Asia. They’re particularly popular in the UK.
  • Nesting: They prefer to nest underground, often in abandoned rodent burrows. Occasionally, they might choose tussocky grass or under stones.
  • Environment: They thrive in various habitats, including gardens, farmland, woodlands, and coastal areas.

3. Behavior: What Makes the Red-Tailed Bumblebee Unique?

  • Social Structure: They live in colonies with queens and workers. A single colony can have up to 250 workers.
  • Activity: They’re most active during the day and are known to be quite docile unless threatened.
  • Pollination: Like other bumblebees, they play a crucial role in pollinating various plants, ensuring the survival of many ecosystems.

4. Diet: What Does the Red-Tailed Bumblebee Eat?

  • Nectar: Their primary source of energy, they collect nectar from a variety of flowers.
  • Pollen: Essential for feeding their larvae. They have a preference for flowers like daisies, thistles, and lavender.
Favorite FlowersBlooming Period
DaisiesSpring – Summer
LavenderLate Spring – Early Autumn

5. Best Time to Spot Them

  • Season: They’re most visible from early spring to late autumn.
  • Time of Day: Your best chance to spot them is during the daytime, especially on sunny days when flowers are in full bloom.

6. Popularity and Distribution

  • Europe: They’re one of the most common bumblebees in the UK and are widespread across Europe.
  • Asia: Their presence extends to some parts of Asia, though they’re not as common as in Europe.


The Red-Tailed Bumblebee is more than just a pretty face in the bee world. Its role in pollination is crucial for many ecosystems. By understanding and appreciating species like Bombus Lapidarius, we can better appreciate the intricate web of life that bees support. If you’re interested in identifying more bee species or learning how you can help bees in your area, check out our Bee ID page for more information.

Remember, every bee species plays a vital role in our environment. By supporting initiatives like Revive a Bee, you’re not just helping one bee; you’re contributing to the well-being of our entire planet.

About The Author

Please Sign the Petition

Are you a UK resident? We need your signature to Help Save Bees From Neonicotinoids in the UK