How do you spot a rare bumblebee found at Welney on the Norfolk Cambridgeshire border? First look for its exceptionally large tongue

Ruderal bumblebee tongue

Ruderal bumblebee tongue - Credit: Archant

A rare bumblebee – easily spotted because of its exceptionally large tongue- has been spotted on the Cambridgeshire/Norfolk border.

Ruderal bumblebee

Ruderal bumblebee - Credit: Archant

The ruderal bumblebee was photographed at the Welney wetland centre this summer; the species is scarce in the UK.

Assistant warden Joshua Well said the bees are visiting the wildflowers on the reserve collecting nectar.

“At the same time, they are playing a vital role to the plants by pollinating them,” he said.

“Some members of this species lack the distinctive striping that is normally associated with these insects.”

Ruderal bumbledee back

Ruderal bumbledee back - Credit: Archant


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Only three populations of this species were found in Norfolk between 2001-2011. Many bumblebee species have seen a worrying decline in numbers due to threats including changes to modern land uses and farming practices.

Mr Wells said: “Ruderal bumblebees have a particularly long tongue, and so feed on flowers such as comfrey, yellow iris and marsh woundwort. They are also well adapted to feeding from red clover, teasel and thistles.

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“The wetlands we manage provide the plants these insects need to exist. You don’t have to look far; the swathes of wildflowers beside the footpaths are a favourite spot for the bees and many other pollinating insects.”

He said ruderal bumblebees will be out on the reserve for a few more weeks before the queens start to think about hibernating.

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