Worcestershire Record No. 6 April 1999 p. 19
Last year, in August, I visited Monk Wood with a friend from Finland who was interested in seeing the White Admiral butterflies. Whilst walking along the main ride where it is wide with sunlit flower-rich verges my attention was drawn to a large bee which was new to me. Not having my identification guide nor my camera with me I had no option but to memorise its features and refer to the book when I got home - a dangerous procedure with my rapidly fading memory cells. It was clearly a bumble bee. It was almost totally black with just a hint of lighter colour at the tip of the abdomen. I had little hesitation in identifying it as the dark form of Bombus ruderatus as I could find nothing else of comparable colour.
The rude awakening came at the BRC Annual Meeting in March when Bronwen Bruce gave her talk on bumble bees. It appeared from the distribution maps that B. ruderatus is a rare bee confined to the east of England. The bumble bees are, unfortunately, very variable and I now feel it more than probable that what I had seen was a melanistic form of a more common species such as B. hortorum. However, the possibility remains that it was indeed B. ruderatus so if anybody walking in Monk Wood notices this dark bee I would be most interested to hear about it. I will be trying to make a few visits myself in the hope of being able to photograph it as the re-discovery of this species in the west would be significant indeed.
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