The Red Tailed Bumblebee of the Pacific Northwest
The red tailed bumblebee is a very common bumblebee on Vancouver Island, emerging early in the spring and feeding on flowers right through to the fall.
It can be found in anywhere there are flowers to feed on. As with other bees, the queen emerges from hibernation in spring and starts a hive by laying eggs that hatch into workers, these workers tend the young and hive.
Males emerge later and mate with new females who are prospective queens. Both the males and old queen die in the autumn, but the new queens hibernate though the winter to emerge in the spring to start a new hive.
The female red tailed bumblebee is a large, black bumblebee with a red butt patch. Males are smaller than the females and along with the red tail, have two yellow bands on the thorax and one at the base of the abdomen.
Bumblebees are very important as pollinators of plant species, including many food crops. But they are under threat from loss of habitat and the increasing use of pesticides and herbicides. You can help to encourage bees and wasps to your garden by providing nectar rich flower borders and fruit trees.