Twelve year old photographer, Neave Duggan, has sent us pictures taken in the park of a male red tailed bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius) feeding on creeping thistle flowers.
Female red-tailed bumblebees are very large and black with, of course, a red tail. The males are smaller and have two yellow bands on the thorax and one at the base of the abdomen as well as the red tail. They also have a moustache of yellow facial hair.
At this stage of the summer, the bumblebee’s colours are fading and his yellow thoracic bands and moustache look grey in these pictures. He mated with newly hatched queens earlier in the summer so essentially his job is done and he will die in the autumn. He does no work in the nest. The female workers raise and feed the next generation; the male feeds only himself.
The old queen will also die at the end of the summer but the new queens, with their store of sperm from their matings, will hibernate underground through the winter and emerge in the spring to begin a new nest.