Facts about brown carder bees

There are 3 species of brown carder bumblebees in the UK. The species you are most likely to see in gardens is the Common carder bee. But you might spot the others on your travels, especially in the wider countryside. If you'd like to look closer, read our handy guide.

Images: Common carder bee ©Bramblejungle. All others ©Steven Falk

Common carder bee  (Bombus pascuorum)

Common carder bee

Bombus pascuorum

Colour: Variable. Ginger or brown on top of the thorax. This is the only species with black hairs on the abdomen that may make it noticeably blackish or grizzled.

Variations: Abdomen colour can range from mostly black to almost entirely cream. Old and faded individuals can appear whitish.

Habitat: Common in a variety of habitats, including towns and gardens, woodland and arable farmland.

Range: Widespread and common.


Common carder bee  (Bombus pascuorum)
Brown-banded carder bee (Bombus humilis)

Brown-banded carder bee

Bombus humilis

Colour: A distinct ginger or chestnut patch on top of the thorax and a ginger band across the abdomen. Black hairs under the wings (though you have to look closely).

Variations: May have two brown bands on the abdomen.

Habitat: Generally on dry open grasslands, heaths and brownfield sites

Range: Southern England and Wales.

Brown-banded carder bee (Bombus humilis)
Moss carder bee (Bombus muscorum)

Moss carder bee

Bombus muscorum

Colour: A deep ginger-coloured patch on top of the thorax which fades towards the front. No black hairs above.

Variations: May have a yellowish band across the abdomen. Some island races have black-haired legs and underside and a deeper, reddish thorax.

Habitat: Generally open, damp areas such as damp grassland, moorland and marsh edges

Range: Widespread in the UK but restricted to certain habitats. Mainly coastal outside of Scotland and Northern England.

Moss carder bee (Bombus muscorum)


Flower bees (Anthophora spp.)

Flower bees

Anthophora spp.

Dumpy, hairy solitary bees with large heads and hairy legs. Fast-flying and unlike bumblebees, often hover around flowers. They often have coloured eyes and pale faces.

Flower bees (Anthophora spp.)
Hoverflies (Merodon equestris.)


A few species of Hoverflies mimic these bees. The most common is the narcissus bulb fly Merodon equestris. These hoverflies have short antennae and large eyes that meet in middle in males (bee eyes never meet).

Hoverflies (Merodon equestris.)
Beeflies (Bombylius spp.)


Bombylius spp.

These flies are entirely brown above and have a long proboscis which is permanently out. They have short antennae and long, thin legs.

Beeflies (Bombylius spp.)