Bombus ruderatus (Fabricius), the Large Garden Bumble Bee At Windmill Hill

By T D Knight

A melanic male bumble bee was found at the north end of Windmill Hill Reserve, near North Littleton, on 12th July 1999. Initial inspection suggested it might be Bombus ruderatus and so the specimen was sent to the National Recorder (Dr O Prys-Jones) for positive identification. After being examined by experts it is now agreed that "it meets all the criteria for B. ruderatus". The specimen has been retained by him for future reference.

[The following notes explain why the record is important - Ed. This species has been recorded occasionally in Worcestershire in the past (Fraser et al 1998) and, although there has been little recent recording, all bumblebees have declined, often from abundance 50 years ago to virtual extinction. Fletcher & Martineau (1901) in the Victoria County History record ruderatus as Bombus hortorum var harrisellus from Wyre Forest and Moseley

Recorder 3.3 states this species to be national status Notable B and is listed in the national BAP list 2 with a Species Action Programme, and notes "A bumblebee with a southern distribution in Britain with most recent records south of the Severn-Wash line. Few, scattered localities north to Northumberland".

Falk (1991) states: "A very local and declined species with most modern records confined to southern England ......... Various authorities writing between 1900 and 1930 considered it to be very common ........ The species appears to require large expanses of unimproved-flower-rich habitat using traditional management (grazing, cutting) and without the use of fertilisers and agricultural chemicals".

Benton (2000) states that this is now one of the rarest of British bumblebees and speculates that significant populations may survive is flower-rich oases based on suburban gardens!].


BALL SG 1994 Recorder 3.3. JNCC
**BENTON, T 2000 The Bumblebees of Essex. available from Lopinga Books, Tye Green House, Wimbish, Saffron Walden, Essex, CB10 2XE. web site, email
FALK S 1991. A review of the scarce and threatened bees, wasps and ants of Great Britain. Nature Conservancy Council.
FLETCHER JE & MARTINEAU JH 1902 Hymenoptera. in The Victoria History of the County of Worcester. Volume 1.
FRASER A, GREEN H, LAKE S, AND NEALE W. 1998 The endangered wildlife of Worcestershire. The County Red Data Book. Worcestershire Biodiversity Partnership.

**This new book is a very useful for anyone interested in bumblebees and especially if you would like to learn to identify and record species. Its usefulness extends far beyond Essex. With this book you could easily make a start on recording our rapidly disappear bumblebees - and we badly need records. And you can start in your garden. Gardens may well be the one of the very few flowery resources still available to bumblebees. If you need more, the Naturalists’ Handbook No 6 Bumblebees by Oliver Prys-Jones and Sarah A Corbet is also very useful.

We need to know about Worcestershire’s bumblebees and where there are good places for them - what about the Malvern Hills and Castlemorton Common? These could be nationally important. Perhaps you could find out? Ed.

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