Monday, 25 May 2009

Bumblebee mating?

I witnessed these three buff tailed bumblebees this morning on my back lawn.

Initially I thought they were mating - which is apparently seldom seen, with the large bee being a queen and the two smaller ones males. But as they're still there (30 minutes after this picture was taken) it could be two female worker bees attacking a queen which hasn't yet nested.

I've contacted the bumblebee conservation trust and posted on the wild about britain forum and will update this post if I get any replies.

Update: After writing this post, posting on the forum and sending emails the bees have now gone, maybe they've finished or the local sparrows have eaten them.

Update #2: Just had this reply from the Outreach Officer at the Bumblebee conservation trust:

The larger bumblebee, the queen is mating with one of the males. The other little male is hanging around and hoping to get involved with queen too! This photo is a brilliant example of the mating culture of bumblebees.

There is also the possibility of the picture being used in the trust's news letter.

Although it may appear to be too early for bees to be mating, it could well be an 'early bumblebee', which are short lived colonies, producing males in April and are often seldom seen after July. So a lucky find.

For more bumblebee mating photographs please see:

Bumblebee conservation trust:


  1. Thanks for all the info it really helped or farm

    Sinserly,Rohde bees

  2. I saw the exact thing in my lawn this afternoon. The bees were actually in a perfect line with the queen at the front and the two males one behind the next on her back. I am glad your post helped me solve the mystery of what I was witnessing. It's almost October... would they actually still be mating?
    Wish I had taken a photo!

  3. Hello, thank you for your comment and I'm very pleased this blog has been of interest and use to you.
    As for your question, I've been consulting my two bumblebee reference books (Field guide to Bumblebees of Great Briain - Edwards & Jenner and Bumblebees - Christopher O'Toole) and there are certain bumblebees (Bombus Sylvarum & Bombus Jonellus) where males and females can be seen as late November.
    Depending upon species, a male can defend a territory and mate with several queens. From what you've described it seems you've almost certainly witnessed bumblebees mating.